The restoration of public health nurses in schools in the South was responsible for increasing the vaccination rates of Israeli pupils to 90 percent, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman decided earlier this year that due to the state comptroller’s intense criticism of the privatization of the School Health Service in recent years, children – at least in the problematic South – would again have public health nurses.

The performance of a series of private companies greatly reduced vaccination and almost eliminated student health checks. The ministry, taking credit for the improvement in the just-ended school year, did not mention that Litzman was a strong backer of the privatization program when he was Knesset Finance Committee chairman and that he had not managed to persuade the Treasury to restore public health nurses around the country despite the comptroller’s demands.

The third company to win the tender, Natali-Seculife, said it performed hearing, growth, vision and other tests as well as vaccinations. The ministry added that the South, with its restoration of public health nurses, had reached the success rates of the rest of the country and that the service was of high quality.

The ministry has issued a new tender to choose another private contractor for the rest of the country (except for the South, where the public nurses will remain). It said it would spend an additional NIS 30 million over three years to enable the winner of the tender to improve services. The winning company will be announced before the new school year begins.

The Treasury had originally maintained that it would save millions by privatizing the service, and the Health Ministry acquiesced, even though public health experts inside and outside the ministry said it would result in disaster.

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