Health Basket Committee 311.
(photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
For the second time in a few weeks, Health Ministry Director-General Prof.
Ronni Gamzu has taken a public stand on health policy that is opposed to Deputy
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman. During his previous 17 months in office, Gamzu
was careful not to contradict Litzman.
Gamzu, former director of Ichilov
Hospital at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, was appointed by the deputy
minister after the sudden resignation of Prof. Eitan Hai-Am over Litzman’s
insistence that ancient pagan bones not be dug up to build an emergency
department at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.
Speaking at the annual
conference of the Patients’ Rights Association at Kfar Hamaccabiah in Ramat Gan,
Gamzu said he strongly supported the proposal – long advocated by many public
health experts – to update the basket of medical technologies by two percent
This, opposed by the Treasury, would neutralize some of the
Finance Ministry’s growing power, which for years has decided how much would be
spent to expand the highly subsidized basket to which relevant patients are
The taking of a public stand in contravention of Litzman made
it appear as if Gamzu’s days in office are numbered.
At the first of the
“Basket committee” sessions in Jerusalem a few weeks ago, The Jerusalem Post
asked Litzman his views of a 2% annual update, but the former Knesset Finance
Committee chairman declined to say anything positive about the idea, which has
been floated for over a decade.
At that meeting, Gamzu was recorded as
favoring the reduction of the basket increment of NIS 300 million by 10% to
reduce medication and medical- service co-payments for the poor. Litzman stated
then that he does not want any more reductions in the basket increment (even
though the deputy minister two years ago pressed for the reduction of the basket
increment by NIS 65m., to supply free and cheap dental treatments for young
Gamzu has reportedly been under threats of dismissal from
Treasury officials because he refused Litzman’s order last week to immediately
fire senior Rambam Medical Center doctors who sent in letters of resignation
over the current dispute with medical residents; he also raised the pique of the
Prime Minister’s Office for disclosing and criticizing Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s suggestion to hire physicians from India instead of rebel
“The annual increment [for the basket] must be updated,” Gamzu
said at Kfar Hamaccabiah on Monday. “It is not suited to the needs of the
population today. One can’t struggle every three years [with the Treasury to
expand the basket].
It must be decided by legislation.”
director-general said he came to the conference to “strengthen patients”
organizations and public medicine in general. One of the biggest problems is the
decline in funding of the health budget via the basket.
criticized the asof- yet implemented Trajtenberg Report on social matters for
its failure to “deal seriously” with health problems.
What was written
there was “the wrong slogans that don’t represent reality.”
Haim Oron, who was chairman of the Knesset’s Health Lobby, criticized the
growing privatization of and resulting social gaps in medicine.
Rights Association Chairman Adina Marks said that due to the relatively small
allocation to expand the basket, many patients will not get the medications they
need to save and extend their lives.
Meanwhile, at a meeting of the
Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Sunday, Gamzu promised by the end
of December to add 69 job slots for public nurses in baby and child health
(tipat halav) centers in the periphery of the country. Because the Health
Ministry has used allocated funds meant for this purpose for other health needs,
the Treasury froze the job slots.
Gamzu, who did not deny this, said the
ministry launched a campaign to find public health nurses for this work and
found 69, but 39 needed job slots have still not been allocated.
Union of Public Nurses said that in recent years pregnant women get an average
of only 16 minutes for examination at tipat halav stations, compared to