(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
After Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor Shlomo Buhbut charged Monday that Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman is responsible for “the collapse of medical system in the periphery” and is “the worst health minister ever,” Litzman presented on Tuesday his plans for “equalizing healthcare.”
Buhbut was speaking at an emergency meeting of heads of local authorities, doctors, families and social welfare organizations in Ma’alot. 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. He declared that Litzman’s failure to equalize services in the periphery made his “the worst health minister ever” and that he “should resign. Children have died because of this failure,” said Buhbut. “We will bring this struggle to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
“Litzman -- we do not want to die!” said the signs of protesters at the conference. The 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, which is on the verge of total collapse. Along with participating organizations struggle hospital, human rights organizations and medical institutions.
The leaders of the struggle demanded that Litzman intervene and immediately supply funds to medical institutions in the periphery that have been delayed for years. Of this sum, a total of NIS 300 million is owed to the hospital for treating wounded Syrian civilians promised by the government. This, Buhbut said, requires a state commission of inquiry.
The participants said there is an eight-year gap in life expectancy between those living in the center of the country and those in the periphery. “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.”
Asked to comment, 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.
Physicians will get 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 time to a public hospital rather than to leave and go to a private hospital in the early afternoon.
Litzman said that MRI scanners will open in six hospitals in the periphery including two in the north. There will also be two mobile MRI machines licensed by the ministry. In addition, Beduin nurses in the south will be trained to work in their communities. The ministry 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 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.”