Abuse in Israel’s nursing home system became a public crisis after three aides and a registered nurse were criminally charged with abuse and neglect on aging and helpless patients. This followed disclosure at the Naiot Kipat Hazahav nursing home in Haifa and a report by an investigative journalist published in Yedioth Ahronoth that identified severe instances of violence, abuse and humiliation at other Israeli nursing homes.

The indictment describes numerous and serious counts of abusing helpless persons in care. The three aides are accused of aggravated assaults. The nurse in charge of them is alleged to have known about the ongoing acts but failed to report the abuse as required by duty and the law.

Details of the alleged offenses include:

  • Incidents where patients were placed in wheelchairs in the middle of the night and left to sit alone in the dark awaiting meal times.
  • Placing sticks in wheelchair spokes to immobilize patients from freely moving about the facility.
  • Tying patients spread-eagled to bed rails and leaving them incapacitated.
  • Violently changing patients’ soiled diapers and refusing them access to toilet facilities.
  • Forcibly holding patients down with full body weight while changing their clothing.
  • Punching and hitting patients with hands and elbows causing bruising and bleeding.
  • Washing patients while in restraining harnesses and leaving them to air dry in the cold.
  • Threatening patients with further physical harm if they disclosed abuse.
  • Staff drinking on the job that aggravated verbal and physical assaults.

Although the three aides were responsible for the majority of the abuse, some caught on camera, much responsibility is claimed to fall on the registered nurse who was in charge when the alleged abuse occurred. It raised the question by the nurse’s defense lawyer who asked what was happening to other people in supervisory roles who were aware of the abuse but did nothing about it. That includes doctors and senior facility managers.

Victims’ family members agree that more individuals need to be held accountable. Families cite irresponsibility at high levels and claim they were only told about abuse incidents on their loved ones once the investigative report became public and the charges were laid. They also ask, “what about the others who knew but kept silent?”

Details of the Haifa abuse complaints caused an uproar in the overall nursing home industry. They have prompted government officials to act, including putting forth a motion to have video cameras permanently installed in all nursing care homes to record and prevent abuse. Greater accountability within nursing homes is the main issue.

Government critics cite a lack of funding to Israel’s health care system. They call for increased spending and importing qualified foreign labor to boost understaffed facilities. It is suggested that 2,400 foreign workers are needed to bring staffing to an acceptable level. Read more on this Israeli nursing home abuse story.

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