Senior physicians are critically harshly at handling the recent outbreak of the Ministry of Health's measles, saying that it waited a few months before taking action, then he did it in a derogatory and disorganized manner and deployed inadequate human resources.
This generated confusion and even panic among the public, they added.
"The penny did not let it fall that this was a significant event," said a specialist in infectious diseases. "The ministry should have detected in the summer that we were facing an emergency and we had to mobilize all systems."
After several cases of measles during the summer provoked fear of an outbreak, he added, the ministry made it recommend that people traveling abroad be vaccinated.
>>Everything you need to know about the measles outbreak that causes Israel
Sources in the telephone line of the Kol Habriyut ministry said they told the general director of the Moshe Bar Ministry Siman Tov in 2017 that they received many calls about measles, but did nothing with this information.
The prime minister acknowledged that he had a real problem only six months after the media began to report the outbreak. The number of measles cases began to increase markedly in March, and in August, 250 cases were diagnosed, eight times more than in 2017.
Additionally, many patients with measles have been discovered on flights to and from Israel. But, as noted, the ministry only recommends that people be vaccinated before flying to certain parts of Europe, where the outbreak began.
In October, there were almost 700 known cases. The most significant outbreaks were in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Betar Ilit, due to conditions and vaccination rates of only 50 percent. The smaller outbreaks occurred in the north and in the settlements of the West Bank; There were also dozens of cases in Tel Aviv.
Last week, an 18-month-old boy in the ultraorodox neighborhood of Mea She Jerusalem died of the disease, the first death of measles in 15 years. So far, there were more than 1,400 cases of measles, and Jerusalem hospital doctors said they fear losing control.
"This is a scandal," said a senior official from one of Israel's leading health maintenance organizations on the ministry's conduct. "We are lucky that it is only measles and not another disease."
The ministry "made every possible mistake in managing the crisis and explaining it," he added. "What happened in recent days is an attempt to cover this by working with the means to look like it was doing something. But the result was panic."
The operation of the outbreak of the ministry differs greatly from its handling of a polio outbreak in 2013-14 under the then General Director Prof. Ronni Gamzu. To combat mistrust of the system between certain communities and the influence of opponents of vaccination on social networks, he personally met opinion leaders in several communities, including rabbis and magnets. As a result, 980,000 children were vaccinated against polio between August 2013 and January 2014, and the disease did not cause injuries or deaths.
The difference in handling these two crises "is huge," said a senior doctor. "The polio crisis has been defined as an emergency at an early stage and the crisis has been driven by the mobilization and cooperation between many players – doctors and experts, HMOs, local governments and others."
"There is a key leadership problem here," added one person involved in the management of several previous health crises. "I do not think that the person headed by the Ministry today can respond to such an event."
"This is both a professional and a communications crisis," he continued. "He needs a lot of knowledge and experience in both fields and requires an active management … and a level of information much more detailed than what exists today."
The crisis also revealed the poor state of Israel's public health service and its preparedness for an emergency. In 2012, this service employed 1,227 nurses, who administered vaccines and followed epidemics locating anyone exposed to a given disease.
Today, however, the number was reduced to 920, which led to waiting for vaccines and follow-up visits. In addition, the examinations have become less detailed and less frequent.
Since the outbreak of measles began, these nurses worked 12 hours. This week, therefore, the Ministry asked the nursing students to help.
"The 920 nurses are managing measles; every routine activity has been stopped," said Moriah Ashkenazi, an employee of the nursing union. "The burden is so heavy that nurses are not able to collect information and send reports to the Ministry of Health in real time."
"We are selling families whose children have never been vaccinated," he added. "We have to complete not only his measles shot but also other vaccines, with all his explanations, records and instructions."
Ilana Cohen, who heads the nursing union, said the outbreak demonstrated how the public health service was neglected. "There was no correspondence between population growth and the number of nurses," he said. "We are short at least 140 nursing jobs in the public health service."
The comparison of the problem is the fact that no ministry official communicated directly to the public nor gave media interviews to explain the situation. And the waiting times on the Kol Habriyut phone line are 10 minutes or more.
Parents said they feel pressured, confused and angry. They feel they have no information to deal with the crisis and have complained about the lack of access to medical personnel. Hotline operators do not seem to know much, they've added and it's hard to make appointments. In addition, the Ministry's published recommendations are confusing.
A mother from Herzliya, for example, said she tried three days to call her local vaccine provider to organize a booster shot for her son, but there was no response.
And when Haaretz tried to make an appointment for a booster shot for an adult, it was said that the next appointment available at the Tel Aviv district health office was February 11.
Another problem is that vaccine responsibility is divided between several agencies – district health offices, welfare clinics, companies hired to provide health services to students, HMOs and clinics – depending on the age and state of the patient.
"The first thing that stands out is the confusion and ignorance of people calling to ask questions," said a senior HMO official. "Even our hotline operators do not have all the answers."