(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A Health Ministry representative on Monday told the Knesset Social Welfare, Labor, and Health Committee that it has not encountered widespread homophobia in the health system, despite hundreds of complaints filed by members of the LGBT community.
Ministry social worker Malka Prager told the meeting, initiated by Yesh Atid MK Yael German and Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli, that every member of the lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, and transgender community has the right to fair treatment and accessible service without any discrimination, just like anyone else.
“We handle every case of complaints and work to train medical teams,” she added.
“While the phenomenon is not widespread, we are aware of the fact that there are some people who behave differently, and every complaint against them will be dealt with,” promised Prager.
But Oded Fried, director of the Association for the Protection of Individual Rights, said he was “surprised that the ministry does not recognize the phenomenon, as there are scores of reports and hundreds of cases like this. We live in a terrible environment for LGBTs. Don’t hide your heads in the sand.”
Committee chairman Eli Alaluf (Kulanu) said that “every citizen deserves equal rights... A physician is supposed to be a fair person who understands the body and soul of his or her patients. I will soon meet with directors of the health funds and raise the need for treatment in special clinics for such people.”
German, the former health minister, said there are still doctors who “hate and discriminate” against LGBTs and that all medical staffers should be taught about the community. She added that action should be made to make it easier for homosexuals to donate blood, as well as for most Jews of Ethiopian origin. The ministry has avoided taking such decisions, German charged.
Dr. Gal Wagner of the Clalit Health Services clinic in Gan Meir, reported that four percent of LGBTs said that when their sexual identities became known, they were treated badly by their doctors. About 1% claimed that doctors refused to treat them.
Rabbi Ron Yosef, head of the HOD organization of religious and ultra-Orthodox homosexuals, said that the situation of observant members of the LGBT community is even worse. “We received 214 complaints against doctors in health fund clinics. Most sent these people to [bogus] ‘conversion treatment’ to turn them into heterosexuals, but nobody dares to complain officially,” said the rabbi.
Dr. Tami Karni, head of the Israel Medical Association’s ethics bureau, said all doctors have been tarred as homophobes because one member in the ethics bureau wrote terrible things in a closed forum of family physicians. “We will discuss the matter in the IMA court next month, and we will wait for a decision. So far, we have seen no connection between improper expressions and the quality of treatment we give.”