The return of public health nurses to the School Health Service in the South
brings the maximum service to children at minimum cost, according to the Adva
Center for Equality and Social Justice.
The Health and Finance ministries
– which initiated the privatization of the School Health Service some seven
years ago with the explanation that it would “save money and improve service” –
should restore service in the schools throughout the country, said Adva director
Barbara Swirsky on Sunday.
The previous state comptroller, Micha
Lindenstrauss, castigated the decision by the Treasury, with the Health
Ministry’s consent, to privatize the service. The School Health Service not only
vaccinates schoolchildren but also provides health checkups (for various issues
including posture, weight, vision and hearing) and health education against
eating disorders, smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs.
private companies chosen by the Health Ministry via a public tender caused a
deterioration in services, the comptroller said.
The National Council for
the Child, headed by Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, condemned the privatization as well and
called it a disaster.
Adva said that using an external contractor to
operate the service, saying it was “cheaper,” resulted in “higher costs and a
decline in professionalism.”
Now, in a new report, Adva said that since
March, the reintroduction of public nurses in the South has improved
Adva was commenting on the ministry decision last March to
reinstate public health nurses in the South, where the large number of Beduin
and other low-income populations have suffered more than other socioeconomic
groups as a result of the privatization.
“The public health nurses, who
are state employees, are now present in the schools [in the South] and know the
pupils. They not only vaccinated but also conducted a series of health checkups
and follow- ups in cases that required treatment,” said Swirsky.
Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman – who, while serving as the Knesset Finance
Committee chairman advocated privatization – restored the public service last
year, saying the original move had been a mistake.
The cost of contractor
nurses in the rest of the country (excluding the South) was NIS 90 million a
year when provided by the Natali and Pemi Premium companies, said Adva. But with
the public health nurses restored in the South, 90 percent of first-graders were
vaccinated this year, compared to only 66% in 2011.
While using public
health nurses, the services in the South increased the number of nurses, so that
the average ratio of nurses to pupils was one per 2,800; the contractor nurses
had a ratio of only one per 5,000.
Today, 17% of all school pupils enjoy
healthcare from public nurses.
Thus, using contractor nurses in the
majority of the country cost more and provided poorer service, Adva
Swirsky continued that if all the country’s pupils were treated by
public nurses, the cost would total NIS 118m., while if by contractor nurses,
the cost would be NIS 194m.
No comment was received from the Health