Senior doctors were very critical of the recent handling of measles outbreaks, saying they waited several months before taking action, then did it in a hesitant and irregular way and mobilized insufficient human resources.
This has created confusion and even panic among the people, they added.
"Penny does not mean that this is an important event," said an infectious disease specialist. "The ministry should realize again in the summer that we are facing an emergency and must mobilize all systems."
After several cases of measles during the summer raised fears of an outbreak, he added, the ministry did by recommending that people traveling abroad be vaccinated.
>>Everything you need to know about the measles outbreak rolls Israel
Hotline sources Kol Habibyut at the ministry said that they had told general ministry director Moshe Bar Siman Tov in 2017 that they received many calls about measles, but he did nothing with this information.
The ministry first admitted that it had a real problem just six months after the media began reporting the outbreak. The number of cases of measles began to increase significantly in March, and in August, 250 cases were diagnosed, about eight times more than in all of 2017.
In addition, many measles patients are found on flights to and from Israel. But as noted, the ministry only recommended that people get vaccinated before flying to certain parts of Europe, where the outbreak began.
In October, there were nearly 700 known cases. The most significant outbreak occurred in the ultra-Orthodox environment of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Betar Ilit, due to crowded conditions and the vaccination rate was only around 50 percent. Minor outbreaks occur in the north and in West Bank settlements; there are also dozens of cases in Tel Aviv.
Last week, an 18-month-old baby in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She'arim in Jerusalem died of the first deaths from measles in 15 years. To date, there have been more than 1,400 cases of measles, and doctors at the Jerusalem hospital say they are afraid of losing control.
"This is a scandal," said a senior official at one of Israel's main health care organizations about the behavior of the ministry. "We are lucky that it is only measles and not another disease."
The ministry "has made every possible mistake in managing the crisis and explained it," he added. "What has happened in the past few days is an effort to cover this up by working with the media to look as if doing something. But the results have panicked. "
The handling of the outbreak of KLB was very different from the handling of the polio outbreak in 2013-14 under the Director General at that time, Prof. Ronni Gamzu. To combat system distrust among certain communities and the influence of opponents of vaccination on social media, he met privately with opinion leaders in various communities, including rabbis and priests. As a result, 980,000 children were vaccinated against polio between August 2013 and January 2014, and this disease did not cause injury or death.
The difference in handling these two crises is "very big," said a senior doctor. "The polio crisis is defined as an emergency in the early stages and the crisis is dealt with through mobilization and cooperation among many players – doctors and experts, HMOs, local governments and others."
"There is a major problem of leadership here," added someone who was involved in handling several previous health crises. "I don't think people heading to the ministry today can respond to such events."
"This is a professional and communication crisis," he continued. "It takes a lot of knowledge and experience in both fields and requires active management … and a much more detailed level of information than is currently available."
The crisis has also revealed the poor health of Israeli society and its unpreparedness for emergencies. In 2012, the service employs 1,227 nurses, who manage vaccines and track epidemics by finding anyone affected by certain diseases.
Today, however, this number has shrunk to 920, leading to waiting for vaccinations and follow-up visits. In addition, the examination becomes less thorough and less frequent.
Since the measles epidemic began, this nurse has worked 12 hours a day. This week, therefore, the ministry asks nursing students to help.
"All 920 nurses are now dealing with measles; all routine activities have been stopped, "Moriah Ashkenazi, an official at the nurse union. "The burden is so heavy that nurses do not manage to collect information and send reports to the Ministry of Health in real time."
"We see families whose children have never been vaccinated," he added. "We have to finish not only their measles shots, but also other vaccinations, with all their explanations, notes and instructions."
Ilana Cohen, who heads the nurse union, said the outbreak has shown how ignored public health services are. "There is no correspondence between population growth and the number of nurses," he said. "We have at least 140 breastfeeding positions in public health services."
The problem is the fact that no ministry official has communicated directly with the public or given media interviews to explain the situation. And the waiting time at the Kol Habyut hotline is 10 minutes or more.
Parents say they feel depressed, confused and angry. They feel they lack information to deal with the crisis and complain about the lack of access to medical personnel. Hotline operators don't seem to know much, they added, and it's difficult to make an appointment. In addition, recommendations issued by the ministry are confusing.
A mother from Herzliya, for example, said she tried for three days to call her local vaccination provider to arrange a booster shot for her son, but there was no answer.
And when Haaretz tried to make an appointment for a booster for adults, it was notified that the next appointment available at the Tel Aviv district health office was February 11.
Another problem is that the responsibility for vaccination is shared between several institutions – district health offices, baby clinics, companies hired to provide health services to students, HMOs and clinics – depending on the age and condition of the patient.
"The first thing that stands out is the confusion and ignorance of people who call to ask questions," said a senior HMO official. "Even our hotline operators don't have all the answers."