Protecting Senior Citizens

A report by Zulat: Equality and Human Rights, an NIF grantee, has exposed how the Israeli government is violating the rights of older adults. The report by the organization’s medical, bio-ethical and legal experts examines government public health policy towards the over-65-year-old population during the COVID-19 pandemic between March and August, and found “structural discrimination” due to “paternalistic policies.”

Zulat found that 33% of the fatalities in Israel from COVID-19 during this period were residents of geriatric nursing homes, even though they represent only 3% of the population over 65.

Zulat said that this “terrible failure was due to being unprepared to provide personal protective equipment to nursing staff and setting up a rapid and effective testing system.”

The background to this failure, Zulat added, was insufficient staffing for COVID-19 response, ongoing budget cuts, and under-allocation of resources to nursing homes. Moreover, there seem to be no efforts to remedy these problems before the winter when the COVID-19 epidemic is expected to mix with flu.

The problem is exacerbated, Zulat points out, because no one government body is responsible for geriatric nursing homes with different ministries, the health funds, and local authorities all blaming each other for failings.

To make matters worse, many authorities have imposed draconian restrictions on older adults simply because of their age. The report points out that denying the people the chance to see their children and grandchildren can, in many cases, have a more detrimental effect on mental and physical health than COVID-19 itself.

The report lists 32 main recommendations on how to remedy the situation, including larger budget allocations, more community care, and clear lines of responsibility.

Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir

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October 2020