The Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) NGO issued a report for publication on Thursday criticizing the Health Ministry’s “inadequate mental health services” in the South during Operation Protective Edge last year.
“The ministry failed by not carrying out its responsibility as a regulator of the mental health system that was privatized. Mental health services operated during the emergency without coordination, and private voluntary organizations hold sensitive information about patients without supervision,” the organization charges. “Treatment of patients with anxiety and emotional trauma is vital for residents of the South not only in war, but also in routine emergencies as the last few weeks have proven,” the report said.
The report was based on interviews of therapists and patients during emergency periods in the South in two specific locations: the city of Sderot and the unrecognized Beduin town of Ujan. PHR-I also communicated in detail with the ministry.
The report presented a “difficult picture of this system, which was privatized without a public debate. There was no consideration for southern residents who suffered damage.”
The report added that one of the three major problems was the lack of regulation by the ministry, “which didn’t function according to its own guidelines and helped push public services to private organizations to do its work. In addition, there was no single body supervising treatment, and professional treatment knowhow was not passed among the various bodies responsible for providing it.” The four public health funds were supposed to provide emotional assistance in routine and emergency times, but “it wasn’t clear how their work was coordinated.” PHR-I complained that access to mental health services was “not egalitarian, and privatization damaged the residents’ right to get treatment, especially the weaker elements in society.”