June 17, 2024

Ministry of Health orders Assuta to reduce activity after IVF scandals

After a hearing held on Thursday morning with officials at the Assuta private hospital in Ramat Hahayal Tel Aviv, the Ministry of Health ordered that its in-vitro fertilization unit must reduce its activity and that the hospital should appoint a senior expert from outside the medical center to oversee what is done, help to update and implement procedures and implement a culture of safety and the reporting and management of unusual events in the hospital.

Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, head of the Ministry’s medical department who conducted the hearings as well as an in-depth investigation into mixtures in the handling of embryos, examined the data set including administrative deficiencies in the field of treatment safety. She said the unit’s failures were due to poor organizational culture and high workloads in the IVF unit.

The reduction of activity in the unit includes the prohibition of more than 25 operations (egg extraction and embryo retrieval) in a working day until further notice; after reaching the limit, the reception of new patients in the unit must be stopped immediately.

In addition, the unit’s work, including in the laboratory, must close its doors by 11 pm.

A pregnant woman suffering from depression (Illustrative) (credit: Israel Midwifery Organization)

A proposal for the appointment of an external supporter must be submitted and an orderly plan for its activities must be sent to the Ministry for review and approval. Mizrahi warned that failure to submit a bid could result in more serious measures.

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of IVF treatments in privately owned medical institutions, raising the need to increase and ensure the mechanisms necessary to maintain the quality and safety of treatment in this system, and especially in the issues of working conditions, personnel status and ensuring appropriate infrastructure. IVF treatments, most of which were paid for by the four health funds, provided significant income for private hospitals.

By mistake the hospital often used the wrong sperm and egg

A few months ago, it was discovered that a child conceived in the IVF unit at Ramat Hahayal was not genetically related to his father, raising concerns that the hospital had mixed up sperm samples during the IVF process.

Assuta said a couple who had undergone IVF contacted him in 2018 and recently underwent genetic testing at a facility outside Israel. The test showed that there appeared to be no genetic link between the child and the father, meaning that the sperm sample could have been mixed with another sperm sample.

The latest suspected case of a mix-up during the IVF process came about a year after a woman who underwent the process at Assuta’s other private IVF unit – in Rishon Lezion – discovered she was carrying and delivering a child that was not her biological child. The woman, who underwent a dangerous operation to save the child, who later had a surgical intervention, is now raising the girl with her husband at home.

The ministry then investigated the scandal and found that “economic circumstances outweighed the basic principles of maintaining the quality and safety of treatment.”

The ministry also claimed that “this choice turned the medical institution into an assembly line, destroyed the cart and caused suffering and pain, not only to the patients who are in the first circle of the event, but to the community of patients and caregivers in Assuta and in all the IVF units in Israel.”

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