Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich called on the Health Ministry on Sunday to
restore all of the public health nurses that seven years ago were sent to work
for private contractors to operate the National School Health Service.
was the Finance Ministry and the Knesset Finance Committee – then headed by
United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman, who later became health minister until
the new government was established – that favored privatization of the National
School Health Service.
The privatization, according to a report by the
state comptroller and statements by the National Council for the Child, was a
disaster, and they demanded that the nurses be restored to the public
The comptroller found that the contractors failed to provide all
elementary school pupils with the required vaccinations within the school year,
let alone health education and health checkups.
There was even a scandal
in which privatized nurses, forced to work too rapidly because of little time
and low pay, forgot to add the powdered vaccine to water and injected some
children with only the liquid. As a result, the pupils had to receive an extra
However, noting the failure, Litzman restored public health nurses
in schools only in the southern part of the country to giving vaccinations,
performing health checks and teaching pupils about beneficial health habits. The
ministry did not fight the Treasury and get all of the nurses returned to the
Yacimovich said – as the Israel Nurses Association held
an emergency meeting Sunday at Histadrut labor federation headquarters in Tel
Aviv to protest against contractors’ firing of 100 of the privatized school
nurses – that their “struggle was completely justified.”
nurses working for private contractors, the Labor MK said, are fighting a battle
against “slave-labor conditions for women who are professional, educated and
Yacimovich added that “the current struggle is also on behalf
of pupils and preventive medicine that can sometimes save lives.
using failed subcontractors put the state a long distance from the years when
Israel was a model in preventive medicine and received international prizes for
it, said the opposition MK.
Yacimovich noted that in another month or so,
the contractors’ companies will change, while in the South, public nurses will
“The Labor Party will support the cancellation of privatization
via legislation or public support,” she concluded.
Asked to comment, the
Health Ministry spokeswoman said the School Health Service was privatized as a
result of a government decision.
From August 1, a private company named
Fami and selected by public tender by the Health Ministry will replace the
Natali company to operate the service, while public nurses will continue to work
in the South. One hundred nurses who previously worked for Natali were fired and
told to work for Fami.
The ministry said that NIS 120 million has been
allocated for the School Health Service in the upcoming school year. It
conceded, however, that the functioning of public nurses in the South reached
the same level “and even exceeded the level” of privatized services.
ministry did not explain why – if the public nurses “exceeded” the performance
of the private contractors – the whole School Health Service has not been
restored to the public sector, which was the case before 2006.
protest meeting in the Histadrut, Nurses Association chairman Ilana Cohen said:
“It can’t be that nurses will again be handed over by one contractor to
They have already been dismissed more than three times in the
past three years, as different contractors took over the School Health
If, by August 1, all School Health Services nurses are not
taken on as state employees, there will be no school nurses, Cohen
“There will be no School Health Services,” she said.
nurses’ association chief added that today, there is one school nurse for every
5,000 pupils, compared to one per 1,500 pupils before the service was