Conversions of Geriatric Facilities to Provide Beds for Coronavirus Patients

Conversions of Geriatric Facilities to Provide Beds for Coronavirus Patients

Avinoam Sharon
April 06, 2020

Due to the need for hospital beds for the treatment of coronavirus patients, the Israeli Ministry of Health decided to transfer patients from under-utilized geriatric hospitals to other facilities, and adapt the evacuated hospitals for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

Two cases were brought before the Supreme Court in this regard. The first, LAA 2199/20 Peshe Brook v. Ministry of Health, sought leave to appeal a decision by the Administrative Affairs Court denying a request for an interim order that would prevent the transfer of the Applicants to alternative facilities while their petition against the Ministry’s decision remained pending. The request was denied in a decision by Justice U. Vogelman for lack of a sufficient cause for intervention in the lower court’s decision. Although the Court recognized the difficulty that the transfer posed for the Applicants, Justice Vogelman held that “the balance of interests tilts in favor of the Ministry of Health, which seeks to use the Center’s 360 available beds for the hospitalization of corona patients …”. See the translation of the decision here

The second case, HCJ 2233/20 Pardes Hanna-Karkur Local Council v. Ministry of Health; HCJ 2255/20 Ezra Manor v. Ministry of Health, challenged the decision of the Ministry of Health to convert several departments in the Shoham Government Geriatric Center in Pardes Hanna-Karkur for the treatment of moderate to severe coronavirus patients. The Court (per Justice A. Stein, Justice G. Karra and Justice N. Sohlberg concurring) denied both petitions.

In HCJ 2233/20, the Court criticized the “not in my backyard” attitude of the Local Council, and held that “Shoham is a hospital that belongs to the State, and it may decide what goes on between its walls to the best of its professional discretion in order to treat patients that it – the State, and not the Pardes Hanna-Karkur Local Council – decides to hospitalize. That authority is granted the State by virtue of it general prerogative as an executive authority, by virtue of the provisions of the Public Health Ordinance in regard to the establishment and administration of hospital and other medical institutions in a state of emergency, by virtue of the provisions of the Interpretation Law concerning auxiliary powers… as well as by virtue of its being the owner of the hospital under discussion”.

In denying the petition in HCJ 2255/20, the Court recognized the Petitioners’ distress, but held that the State had struck a proper balance between the violation of the rights of the Petitioners and the expected harm to the general public. Citing Justice Vogelman’s decision in LAA 2199/20, the Court held that “in making this decision, the State exercised professional discretion, and its decision is certainly not disproportionate”. See the translation of the decision here.