Medical tourism will be regulated through legislation, Likud MK Haim Katz,
chairman of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee, said on
Monday during discussion of a Channel 2 investigation into the treatment of
foreigners by three surgeons at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical
Health Minister Yael German added that medical tourism was
beneficial because “it gives doctors experience” and can be shifted from the
center of the country, where is it largely practiced, to the
Katz claimed that “unfortunately, both the Finance Ministry
and the hospitals don’t listen to the Health Ministry’s instructions on the
matter; thus regulation has to be legislated.
I have the impression that
treating foreign patients well spreads the good name of Israel and serves as an
ambassador of good will.”
However, health experts maintain that the
ministry has not issued clear guidelines on what is and isn’t permitted for
physicians who treat foreign patients, leading to findings by the investigative
program Uvda on doctors who allegedly take payments for neurosurgery and cardiac
surgery performed on foreigners at the medical center.
Over the years,
while ministry professionals have long been in favor of regulation, politicians
from the Prime Minister’s Office on down have pushed for encouraging almost
unlimited medical tourism, they say.
German cited a “shortage of money”
in the health system.
“In the coming years, we won’t get [from the
Treasury] the NIS 8 billion we need for public health, so we need to consider
additional sources of funds while carefully preserving equity and justice,” she
“The topic worked under the radar screen because there was no
regulation,” she continued.
“It is clear that medical tourism cannot be
abolished. Think of the possibility of an online system in which we could know
where there are empty beds at any given moment in the hospitals, where we would
refer foreign patients.... With proper regulation, we will be able to serve the
Israeli pubic and enrich the public purse.”
director-general Ronni Gamzu – who previously was director-general of the
Sourasky Medical Center’s Ichilov Hospital – said he bore some responsibility
for the growth in medical tourism, although he admitted that this growth had
“The pay for a surgeon who treats a tourist is
three or four times what he gets for operating on an Israeli patient,” Gamzu
said. “Already today, I will rush instructions to hospitals that they must not
pay those who operate on foreign tourists any more than they get for operating
on local residents.”
To this, Israel Medical Association director-general
Leon Eidelman said: “You have killed it [medical tourism in the public
hospitals]. They will all go for surgery to Assuta [Medical Centers, the chain
of private hospitals].”
Sheba Medical Center director- general Zev
Rotstein said that medical tourism “raises the level of Israel medicine,” thus
benefiting all Israelis.
“The treatment is provided after the doctors’
regular working hours and not at the expense of Israelis,” Rotstein explained.
“The share of foreigners compared to Israelis in my hospital is only 15 percent,
and the income is only 6.36% of Sheba’s total income. But this money is
important because I can’t get it from the government. Regulation is not the
solution for everything.
Sometimes it interferes. Let the hospital
managers run things.”
Labor MK Mickey Rosenthal said that funds from
medical tourism must go the periphery, “where residents live a decade less on
average than those in the center of the country.”
Meretz MK Ilan Gillon
argued that he wanted the health ministry to finance “my healthcare, and not
that of a tourist from Uzbekistan.”
Meanwhile, Katz – in a separate
committee discussion on health fund deficits – said a proposed NIS 75 million
for insurers was much too small.
“This is a pitiful sum that covers
almost nothing, and it is due to be given only from next year,” he said. “The
Treasury is smashing the health system. It can’t be that all the experts... say
there is a huge deficit, and only the boys at the Treasury, who only yesterday
graduated from university, say something else.”
Bank of Israel economist
Eran Pulitzer said the gap in health funding was “liable to cause harm in the
level of services.”
Zev Wurmbrand, director of Clalit Health Services,
said that some NIS 700m. was needed by the health funds to cover deficits just
“At the same time, there must be supervision to ensure that
the money will go to improve services, and not to salaries,” he said.
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