(photo credit: Sourasky Medical Center)
“How much longer can elderly patients be kept in the corridors?” Dr. Ronni Gamzu, who will become Health Ministry director-general on June 1, asked on Wednesday.
The Treasury must allocate “new money” to the health system, he declared.
Gamzu, until recently director of Ichilov Hospital of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, spoke at the opening of the 11th annual conference of the National Institute for Health Policy Research at the Royal Hotel at the Dead Sea. The conference, dedicated to the theme of “Healthcare in the Digital Age,” is being attended by more than 100 of the most influential people in the health system.
Gamzu, a gynecologist and lawyer with a degree also in business administration, declared that the population has exploded in the last few decades, but the number of budgeted hospital beds has remained static. He calculated that 70,000 days have been spent by patients in beds installed in hospital corridors in the past year.
“Many departments are stretched to the limit,” he said, saying that the Treasury constantly demands additional “efficiency measures” but that no longer can the same amount of money and hospital beds serve a growing number of patients.
He noted that Israel has now joined the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, but its bed/population ratio and MRI/population ratio are the lowest among the member nations. OECD health officials who heard that Israel has only two hospital beds per 1,000 residents thought there was an error, he said, as the lowest ratios they had heard up to now were closer to three. Many patients who need care never even inpatient wards or corridors, Gamzu said, “as they are stuck in emergency rooms” and sent home.
Hospitals will “manage” with no more beds, he said, but their patients‚ health will suffer and they will pay more out of pocket.
Gamzu disclosed that in preparation for his new post to replace Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, who resigned over disagreements with Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, he told Finance Ministry officials he would demand more money for hospitals. This led to health fund directors-general being called by Treasury officials, who urged them to oppose this, because it would lead to the insurers “getting less money” as a result.
He promised to demand more money for the four public health funds, which provide most medical services. Conceding that he was young at only 44, Gamzu said he told the Treasury that he is “determined” to carry out this agenda.
Half a billion shekels are needed to upgrade public hospital
infrastructure and to reinforce hospitals from security risks such as
rockets, he said. Large hospitals in the center of the country can more
easily raise funds to be entitled to government matching funds, he
said, but hospitals in the periphery with meager private donations have
no hope of this.
The Health Ministry should not provide health services or run state
hospitals and psychiatric care must be quickly transferred from the
ministry to the responsibility of the health funds, Gamzu said.
Litzman has not yet stated his position on this issue but has promised to make it known in a week or so.