Health Ministry’s Gamzu again opposes Litzman

Health Ministry Director-General publicly contradicts Deputy Health Minister on updating medical technologies basket.

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November 22, 2011 08:35
3 minute read.
THE HEALTH BASKET Committee

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.

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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 each year.

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 entitled.

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 children).

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 residents.

“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.”

The 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.

Gamzu also 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.”

Former MK Haim Oron, who was chairman of the Knesset’s Health Lobby, criticized the growing privatization of and resulting social gaps in medicine.

Patients’ 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.

The 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


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