(photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
The Health Ministry will pay half of the cost of new magnetic resonance imaging scanners in public hospitals that lack them, Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman revealed on Thursday.
Until now, the ministry has only issued licenses so that hospitals can purchase the scanners with their own money.
Litzman, speaking at the annual Research Day of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, said it was unconscionable that any patient had to wait for weeks or months for such a scan to detect disease; his goal was that the queue would be no longer than three days. MRIs do not produce potentially harmful radiation, unlike x-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scans.
He added that basic and applied medical research was vital for improving health but that the chief scientist in his ministry, Prof. Avi Yisraeli, was budgeted by the Treasury “next to nothing” to finance medical research. Litzman said he complained about this fact in the last few days to Prime Minister (and Health Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu, but did not disclose what he answered.
Litzman revealed that he had made a surprise visit to the emergency room at Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem this week and was disturbed to find difficult conditions for patients and medical staffers in the debt-ridden institution. But he added that he would “not let Hadassah fall. Hadassah is in serious condition.
I started to work on the problem even before the government coalition was formed.
It’s hard for me even to speak about the organization. Without Hadassah institutions,” he said, “there is no Jerusalem.”
Marcie Natan, national president of the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America that owns the Hadassah Medical Organization, was present in the crowd and heard what Litzman said as a local Hadassah official translated from the Hebrew.
Litzman said that while Sheba Medical Center director- general Prof. Zeev Rotstein had been “problematic” in the past, he had decided Rotstein should head the Hadassah Medical Organization (instead of acting director-general Prof. Tamar Peretz) because he knew how to run things.
“Every year, Sheba returns $100 million to the Treasury,” he said.
Hebrew University president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson said he had been told that basic and applied medical research at the medical school would have to “share budgets” instead of getting funded independently.
“We are very worried,” he said.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that the city could be a powerhouse of medical research and hi-tech, and that in another decade, “1,000 professors could be here working together, taking big data and applying it in cooperation with the Health Ministry and health funds” to develop new treatments. He urged students of all kinds to remain in the capital after they finished their studies.