Privatization of school vaccinations deemed failure

Only 30 percent to 40% of vaccinations have been carried out so far in the School Health Service.

By
March 13, 2011 02:51
2 minute read.
YA’ACOV LITZMAN

YA’ACOV LITZMAN. (photo credit: (Ariel Jerozolimski)

Only 30 percent to 40% of vaccinations have been carried out so far in the School Health Service by the private company hired to do it, instead of the nearly 100% rate it was supposed to have reached by now, the Knesset plenum was told for the first time Wednesday night.

The plenum discussed its dissatisfaction with the privatization carried out by three different private companies – all failing – instead of the public health nurses and doctors who had originally taken care of vaccinations and of discussing health promotion and disease prevention in schools around the country.

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Over the past five years, the Treasury has forced the Health Ministry to fire all its School Health Service workers and replace them with companies that work for much less money and time.

The first was the Association for Public Health, a for-profit company consisting of senior former Health Ministry officials.

After that company showed it was unable or unwilling to do the job, it was followed by Magen David Adom, which set up a network to provide vaccination, first aid and other services, but which, according to the state comptroller’s annual report, failed as well.

The private company chosen by the Health Ministry tender was meant not only to vaccinate children properly and on time, but also to provide health education, as the public health nurses had done.

When the third company, Natali – which was established to give services for heart patients, detect heart attacks online and treat them with private ambulances – also failed, the Knesset demanded on Wednesday that the public service be restored.

Pressed by the plenum to answer a motion, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said on Thursday that the tender with Natali would end at the end of the current school year and that a new tender would be issued. However, he gave no indication of a restoration of public responsibility, because the Treasury had refused to return job slots to the public service.

Avi Gur, a senior representative of the Israel Parents Association, said Thursday that “the situation is terrible.

Litzman has admitted that the private employees have completed only a fraction of what they were supposed to do, and have not even begun to [complete the round of] pupils who were absent or were new and needed vaccinating.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is formally the health minister, has the final responsibility, but he has not taken any action to restore the public health service to proper functioning.

MK Orly Levy (Israel Beiteinu) said the service had “reached rock bottom,” failing to identify high-risk health behavior or educate children toward health. Obesity, drug use, smoking, anorexia and other dangerous health behaviors among pupils had been ignored, she said.

Health authorities added that there was a severe shortage of nurses in the South, leaving children exposed to health dangers.

The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee is due to hold another discussion on the issue.


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