The Israel Medical Association charged Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman on Sunday with delaying the transfer of ministry budgets to Nahariya’s state-owned Western Galilee Hospital because its director-general is an Israeli Arab.

Litzman’s recent statements in the Knesset about the hospital “raise the smell of racism,” said IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman.

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The IMA chairman based his statement on protocols from the Knesset in which Litzman made accusations against Dr. Mas’ad Barhoom, the only Arab director of a government hospital. The deputy minister claimed Barhoom “doesn’t allow his [Jewish] employees to pray” during their work in the hospital and pointedly noted that Barhoom “isn’t a Jew,” Eidelman added.

Litzman, an Agudat Yisrael MK who has taken controversial positions over religious issues such as his refusal to remove ancient pagan bones to expand Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, said it took “the intervention of other ministers for the praying to be allowed.”

Eidelman said Litzman’s claim about preventing prayers was absolutely unfounded and that his verbal attacks were baseless.

In a letter to Prime Minister and Health Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Eidelman said that “decisions about the future of Israeli citizens and residents of the periphery are based on the personal views of the deputy minister.”

Eidelman declared that hospital directors are devoted professionals who work according to ethical principles and serve patients while they are locked in an impossible budgetary vise. “At the minimum, I would have expected that he who heads the health system would give them full backing and appreciate their work,” the IMA chairman said.

The ministry and the deputy minister must develop resources to support Nahariya’s hospital, “which is strategically important to residents of the North and the whole country,” Eidelman said.

Asked to comment, Litzman said the hospital in Nahariya “exceeded its budget allocation for the year” and that he would try to help it financially.

“It will not be shut down,” he said.

As for the accusations of “racism,” the deputy minister said the IMA “was capable of accusing him of anything.” There was no explanation of why he noted in the Knesset that Barhoom “isn’t Jewish.”

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