Litzman accuses hospitals of ‘black market' MRIs
Deputy health minister says unnamed hospitals using MRI scanners lacking appropriate ministry license.
BEERSHEBA’S NEW MRI scanner Photo: Soroka University Medical Center
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman surprised and even shocked numerous
senior medical administrators by stating there is a “black market” in MRI
scanners – the multi-million dollar, huge devices that employ magnetic resonance
to diagnose disease – and that “four or five were not reported by certain
hospitals” to his ministry and lacked an appropriate ministry license for using
them on patients.
The ministry does not fund the devices, but a law in
force since 1994 stipulates that MRI scanners may not be purchased or used
without a license. The Treasury demanded this – with support from the four
health funds – to minimize the number of MRIs, so they would not be “overused”
and cost the health insurers too much money. One MRI was allowed for every
750,000 residents of the country.
Litzman said at a Beersheba ceremony on
Monday night – to dedicate a $3 million MRI facility at Soroka University
Medical Center – that all medical directors must now report all MRIs at their
The deputy minister said: “We are about to retroactively
approve all of them. Whoever does not declare in a reasonable time about their
existence will be fined – but in the end, they will all be
Senior medical administrators, who insisted on anonymity, said
it has been “well-known among us for years” that Sheba Medical Center in Tel
Hashomer – which is a government hospital and the largest medical center in the
country – “purchased and installed four or five MRIs some years ago as beta
sites for conducting research, but they were quickly used for diagnosing disease
as well, even though it had no license for doing so.”
said it was impossible the ministry did not know about this and did not
understand why Litzman did not mention Sheba by name.
director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who has been in office for two years, said
he sent letters to all hospitals asking them to declare the unlicensed MRIs so
administrators could avoid getting fined.
The administrators noted that
Sheba’s current director-general, Prof. Zeev Rotstein, was deputy
director-general when the MRIs were installed and used without licenses for
They said Rotstein is “very powerful, and that this is
evidenced by the state comptroller statement in his most recent report on the
Health Ministry: that the Sheba director-general works five other jobs and did
not receive official ministry permission to fill all of these
The administrators said it was unfair for requests by some
hospitals for MRI licenses to be turned down while other administrators run
unlicensed ones. They insisted there is no longer any justification for the
ministry to restrict the purchase of MRIs for diagnostic purposes, as the price
for each scan has gone way down.
In addition, the technology in many
cases makes it unnecessary to use a CT scan, which emits radiation and could
harm patients. There is no medical danger to using MRIs, they said.
to comment on claims that Litzman was referring to Sheba in his speech,
spokesman Amir Marom said on behalf of Rotstein that his medical center “is not
connected in any way” to what Litzman alluded to and that it “does not meet
Litzman’s criteria of ‘certain hospitals.’”