(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman on Tuesday presented his plans for “equalizing healthcare” a day after Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor Shlomo Buhbut called him “the worst health minister ever” and claimed he was responsible for “the collapse of medical system in the periphery.”
Buhbut was speaking at an emergency meeting of heads of local authorities, doctors, families and social welfare organizations in Ma’alot at which the mayors demanded the transfer of NIS 2.5 billion over the next five years to the Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya to equalize treatment conditions to those available in the center of the country.
Asked to comment, Litzman said he has established a special department in his ministry to reduce the social gaps in the health system – “a department that does not exist in any other ministry.”
The ministry, he added is changing its funding formulas for the health funds to benefit the periphery and encourage the insurers to invest in the North and South.
Litzman said he plans to open 14 urgent-care medical facilities in the periphery of the North and South, including in Ofakim, Shaked and Katzrin. In addition, a radiotherapy institute for treating cancer has opened at Ziv Medical Center in Safed so patients don’t have to go to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
According to Litzman’s plan, physicians will receive bonuses for working in the periphery, including as part of the “full-timer program” to make it worthwhile for them to devote all their work hours to a public hospital rather than leaving to work at a private hospital in the early afternoon.
Furthermore, Litzman said MRI scanners will begin operating in six hospitals in the periphery, including two in the North, and that there also will be two mobile MRI machines licensed by the ministry.
In addition, Beduin nurses in the South will be trained to work in their communities.
At Monday’s conference, where protesters carried signs that read “Litzman – we do not want to die!” Buhbut declared that Litzman’s failure to equalize services in the periphery made his “the worst health minister ever” and called for him to resign.
“Children have died because of this failure,” said Buhbut.
“We will bring this struggle to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
That struggle is being led by dozens of mayors, including local and regional cities and councils, whose 600,000 residents receive their medical services from the only hospital in the region – the Western Galilee Medical Center.
“We are second-class citizens. The hospital is on the verge of collapse, and this is because of the discriminatory policy of the Health Ministry,” participants said, claiming that there is an eight-year gap in life expectancy between those living in the center of the country and those in the periphery.