The Israeli Health Ministry has launched an investigation into an incident that took place at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital last week, when an oxygen line running from a central supply point was briefly disconnected, cutting off the delivery of oxygen to the hospital’s wards.
According to the daily Ma’ariv, which first reported the incident, patients attached to respirators were without oxygen for at least 12 minutes and that within an hour of the stoppage three elderly and chronically ill patients had died.
Hospital officials countered that the oxygen flow had been halted for only a few seconds, that alarm bells had rung immediately at nurses stations in all of the hospital’s wards and that medical staff had immediately rushed to patients’ bedsides with portable oxygen bottles and face masks.
They said it was impossible to establish a connection between the very brief halt in the oxygen supply and the number of deaths, which they maintained was not above normal.
The break was caused by work on the oxygen pipe network being carried out by an outside contractor. The contractor was working on the oxygen supply to the hospital’s emergency ward on the ground floor, where renovations were being carried out.
Hospital management officials said they had not reported the incident to the Ministry of Health because they wanted to gather all relevant information before making a formal report.