At the last minute on Monday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saved the
fortification project of Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center from threatened
budget cuts to the Health Ministry.
The original NIS 18 million cut to
the Defense Ministry was increased to NIS 100 m., half of which is earmarked for
fortification of the hospital, which has often been threatened by rockets and
missiles from Gaza.
On Sunday, Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin sent a letter
to Netanyahu pleading for the project’s funding not to be cut.
would allow an underground emergency department and other facilities to be
“I read with shock in the media,” Vaknin said, “that as part
of the expected cuts in the Health Ministry, one of the important and lifesaving
projects liable to be halted is the Barzilai emergency department fortification.
I personally struggled along with many others to bring about its construction in
its original location” instead of a much-more expensive site advocated by
Litzman because the Gur hassidim claimed that “Jewish bones” had been found
there, when in fact they were pagan. “A special budget was allocated for the
work,” the mayor said.
The lives of thousands of patients in Ashkelon and
its environs, as well as those of soldiers serving in the area, are endangered
by the lack of a fortified emergency department, the mayor continued in his
letter to Netanyahu, who should, he said, intervene immediately.
MK Rachel Adatto, a physician and head of the Knesset Health Lobby now in the
opposition, called on Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, “who recently knew
how to pressure the prime minister to prevent the drafting of haredi yeshiva
students – to, with the same determination, put all of his political clout
behind” preventing budget cuts in the health system.
citizens expect the person at the head of the health system to act in a real way
on behalf of the public interest and not only for sectoral ones.”
Chezy Levy, director-general of Barzilai – who until six months ago was chief of
the ministry’s medical division and thus responsible for public hospitals – said
Sunday that medical centers in the periphery suffer from inadequate medical
manpower, outdated equipment and inadequate infrastructure, compared to the
wealthier medical centers in the center, thus they are most hurt by budget
Meanwhile, the Public Campaign for Equity in Healthcare, which
includes the Association for Human Rights in Israel, wrote to Netanyahu to voice
its opposition to health budget cuts. The ministry has declared it will carry
out “revolutions” in healthcare to reduce social gaps, but the evidence is not
seen in the field, it said. As a result, the health gaps between the rich and
Experts, they wrote, say there is a NIS 9 m. deficit in
health budgets reached over the past 15 years. The letter was signed by Rami
Adut and Shlomit Avni of ACRI.
Dr. Masad Barhoom, director-general of the
Western Galilee Government Hospital in Nahariya, added that his institution has
been suffering from “painful cuts” for the last two years. These have threatened
the hospital’s plans to build a women’s health division and other vital
facilities. He called on Netanyahu as prime minister and health minister and on
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to cancel the additional cuts.
journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid will appear on Monday at the Hadassah
Medical Conference at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center to speak about
equity in healthcare, which will be a major subject of the event.