There is no place for separating hospital patients on ethnic, racial or
religious grounds, Dr. Michael Dor, head of the Health Ministry’s general
medical branch, told a session of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health
Committee on Monday.
The meeting was held at the initiative of Labor MK
Ghaleb Majadle, who was upset by reports that such unofficial segregation in
obstetrics wards is taking place at the women’s request.
and the hospitals have a clear policy against segregating patients,” Dor said.
“If we receive information about any case, we will deal with it immediately. It
is true that there are patient requests to be in a ward with people close to
them in age or culturally.”
Majadle, a Knesset deputy speaker, said that
in a place where an Arab doctor treats Jewish patients, Jewish and Arab mothers
cannot be separated.
An Arab surgeon is “permitted” to treat a Jewish
woman, but his wife is “not good enough” to lie in the next bed. “Instead of
living together honorably, with patience and understanding, are we teaching
segregation? This phenomenon must be removed by the roots immediately, as the
health system is the most egalitarian system in the State of Israel,” he
MKs Zehava Galon, Ilan Gilon and MK Afo Agbaria joined
Majadle’s demands at the session, which was also attended by MK Shlomo Molla and
MK Rachel Adatto, who like Agbaria is a physician. The committee called on the
health authorities to be alert to this phenomenon of segregation, whether
initiated by the hospital or at the request of patients.
Agbaria said he
worked for years as a physician in public hospitals and knew that “such
incidents occurred, and not only in maternity units. It is not a policy but
daily practice. With my own eyes I saw how women patients asked not to
have Arabs or Jews from Ethiopia or the Caucasus in their rooms.”
were also Jewish patients who didn’t want Arab medical personnel to treat them,
he said. There is no place for such a phenomenon, Agbaria said.
said that there is a “continuous line between [Jews’] refusal to rent apartments
to Ethiopian [Jews] in Kiryat Malachi and to Arabs in Safed, and separating
mothers in maternity wards.”
“Our society is sick,” Molla said.
“Nationalism is frightening. Professionals have to be sensitive and check
themselves on whether they are ignoring such incidents.”
Davidson of the Association of Hospital Directors responded that the healthcare
system is very egalitarian.
“We try to meet requests of new mothers if
possible. But the phenomenon of segregating them by nationality does not exist
and has no significance.”
Lior Bechor of the Struggle against Racism
added: “Why does a new mother have to be pampered this way? Why should haredi
Jews be allowed gender-segregated buses. This is a wrong criterion according to
Adatto, a longtime obstetrician and gynecologist, said that it
was a “difficult discussion for me to attend. Until three years and two days
ago, when I became an MK, I was a doctor in an ob/gyn department. It is
clear that there is racism in this country, but not in hospitals, and we surely
cannot fight racism through maternity wards.”