The Hidden Costs of COVID-19

With all of the news about infection statistics, the sad passing of people we know and love, and the incredible respect all of us have for those who serve the medical profession, one aspect of the story seems to have gotten lost…..and that is the increased costs that hospitals, nursing homes and other health facilities are facing in dealing with the COVID-19 virus.

All of us need to remember that most of these institutions, like many private citizens, have been living hand-to-mouth for many years, barely able to keep some respectable balance between income and expense.  And that was before this new virus hit.  Now that challenging situation is becoming even more tenuous.  One gets the feeling that if the patient load does not overwhelm the medical service community the increased costs will.

A case in point here in Jerusalem is ALYN Hospital, Israel’s only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility. ALYN (www.alyn.org) treats children with a wide range of congenital and acquired conditions, including cerebral palsy, neuromuscular diseases, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, burns. They are well known as a leading hospital worldwide in the field of Pediatric Rehabilitation

For ALYN, the month of March has generated a million-dollar deficit caused by a whole series of factors tied to COVID-19.  In addition to the lack of income due to the closure of departments like Day Care (80 kids), the cost of purchasing protective gear for their staff, as well as reconstruction of the facility to create and furnish a whole new area walled off from the rest of the hospital in all directions, has had to be met.  That so they are able to aggregate all the respirated patients in one isolated area as they are the most “at risk”.

And, of course, like the rest of us, now that everything is “on line,” there was the cost of setting up numerous zoom licenses and the purchase of computers for their medical staff and therapists, both those still physically in ALYN and those working from home.  In their line of work, the staff needs to be able to reach out to the families of the kids most in need of continuing their rehabilitation, so that they do not to lose the progress made and thus cause irreversible negative results,

Despite these costs, ALYN, like every hospital around the world, is quickly responding to ensure that their most vulnerable patients continue to receive the best care possible.

Multiply that by every other hospital in Israel and then worldwide and the combined cost is a staggering amount most certainly in the hundreds of billions of dollars, if not more.

It is interesting to note that sadly, most of the recovery scenarios being played out by governments worldwide tend to overlook this very real and very necessary cost that forms the foundation of each country’s health care system.  Providing needed health care is part and parcel of the contract between governments and their citizens, here in Israel as everywhere else.   In ALYN’s particular case, as the only hospital in the country the specializes in serving this particular population it is critical that it be properly funded to continue its good work.  Clearly the sources of those funds which, as a nonprofit facility, do not come from any government allocations must be augmented by a public that, itself, may be under significant stress as economies struggle to regain their strength.

We can only hope that those people in the world whom the good Lord has blessed with very significant financial resources will understand that those resources are theirs to care for and then allocate to institutions like ALYN that address such critical needs.

Hopefully those who have enjoyed financial success will remember the words of Winston Churchill, who said:  “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Words to live by for sure.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 33 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, Ontario and Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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