For the first time since the establishment of the state, a private institution has won a state tender to plan, finance, build and run a public hospital.
Assuta Medical Centers said on Monday that it was proud to be selected to be responsible for the new medical center to be built in growing Ashdod.
Assuta chairman Prof. Yehoshua Shemer welcomed the choice, saying it was the result of “exacting and detailed planning” by Assuta management.
Shemer – a leading medical administrator who is a former Health Ministry director- general and director of Maccabi Health Services (the second-largest health fund) – called the decision “an historic moment in the life of [Israeli] medicine and the Israeli health system.”
Assuta is a private company owned by Maccabi Health Services that runs four hospitals – in Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Haifa and Beersheba – and four outpatient medical centers – in Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ra’anana and Ashkelon.
Shemer, whose Assuta Medical Centers are headquartered in its advanced and luxurious new private hospital in Tel Aviv, said the company was committed to building a hospital that would “benefit the residents of Ashdod and its environs with the most advanced technologies and the integration of modern medicine in the community.”
The Health Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that a privately built hospital was the only solution because the “Treasury did not want to build [another] state-owned hospital... It is very upsetting that at the same time that there are negotiations to strengthen public medicine, a public hospital is being set up by a private body,” the ministry said.
The law calling for the construction of a hospital in Ashdod was meant to make it possible for a public government hospital to be set up, it added, and the ministry “thinks that such a hospital must be established as soon as possible,” even if the circumstances were not ideal.
Senior Ben-Gurion University health economist Prof. Dov Chernichovsky said most of the world’s hospitals were not necessarily state-owned, “but they are seen as public because it is run publicly; who is the owner is secondary.”
He explained that in Australia, for example, there were institutions called “recognized hospitals” that were built privately but were publicly owned.
“The most important thing is that they are regulated by the state, which must be honest in funding them so they are functional and sustainable financially,” Chernichovsky said.
The BGU economist said he agreed that “there should not be more governmentowned hospitals, but medical centers that are run publicly and efficiently as corporations and supervised by the state.”
But, he added, “the hospital must be viable and ensure that public patients are getting the healthcare that they are entitled to. A privately built hospital that works for the state is fine.”
He added that Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, which is owned by the state, is “less like this than the Ashdod hospital could be in terms of accountability to the public.”
Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, Assuta’s director-general, who is also a former director-general of the Health Ministry and head of Clalit Health Services’ Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, said the company had been planning to build the Ashdod hospital in accordance with the tender even before the winner was announced.
“Our experience in setting up hospitals is a great advantage and will bring about the project’s success,” he said.
The hospital in Ashdod will have advanced operating theaters, obstetrics
and gynecology departments and oncology, pediatrics, orthopedics,
internal medicine and other departments.
Previously, a group of haredim who were close to Deputy Health Minister
Ya’acov Litzman had shown interest in setting up the Ashdod hospital, as
had Clalit Health Services, the largest public health fund, the
Africa-Israel group and other bidders.
The Ashdod hospital is due to open in four years, according to Shemer.
The tender board was headed by Accountant- General Gil Shabtai, who said the medical center would have “at least 300 beds.”
The board published the tender in August 2009, although the government
passed a law to establish the hospital back in 2002. The public land on
which it will be built is in the eastern part of the city.
It will be the first new public hospital in decades, since Netanya’s
voluntary hospital, Laniado Medical Center, was established by Sanz
Hassidim in 1975.