Israel’s Coronavirus Crisis Exposed a Starved Health System on the Verge of Collapse

The heart of the problem in Israel’s battle with the coronavirus – even before its flawed preparations, which are now being exposed – is the overall state of its health system.

The public health system has been starved for years, its staff and equipment systematically cut. Hospitals suffer from chronic insufficiency, and every unusually severe seasonal flu threatens them with collapse.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 69

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Now they’re facing the coronavirus, for which they’re unprepared. Many staffers are already in quarantine for fear that they’ve been infected, and in the background are the past week’s terrifying events in Italy and Spain.

Based on conversations with many professionals, this is the main problem, before even mentioning the severe shortage of coronavirus test kits and protective equipment for medical staff. This is a frightening, years-long failure that stems from the health system being pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

A new ward for coronavirus patients at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, March 17, 2020.Tomer Appelbaum

When the coronavirus is over, a state commission of inquiry will be unavoidable. We can only hope Israelis still have the strength to fight for it.

As the internal medicine and intensive care units started off in bad shape, every effort has been made to protect them through “forward defensive lines” in the form of increasingly draconian instructions to the public. The Finance Ministry’s fears of enormous economic damage that could last for years have been pushed aside by the Health Ministry’s fears.