Deputy Minister Haim Litzman (center), Moshe Bar Siman Tov (left) and Prof. Arnon Afek (right).
(photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
The Health Ministry is better than its image among the public, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, the first non-physician to serve as its director-general, said on Wednesday.
Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman won in his struggle – mostly against the Israel Medical Association – to get the former senior Treasury official into the job after years of knowing his work.
Litzman said at Wednesday’s changing-of-of-guard ceremony for incoming director-general, Bar Siman Tov, 39, and the outgoing one, Prof. Arnon Afek, 52, that Litzman had managed in the two months since the government was formed to give the ministry a much-more-positive image. “There are twice or three times as many headlines in the papers about the ministry. I read them,” Litzman said.
When the deputy minister apologized for having a cold, a ministry official threw out a humorous comment: “Maybe try medical cannabis!” referring to Litzman’s decision to ease the supply of the narcotic to the 22,000 Israeli patients who already have authorization to get supplies from suppliers (after getting approval from among a very small number of approved physicians). Now, after getting a prescription, they will be able to go to any pharmacy as with any prescription drug.
But Litzman noted that he was totally opposed to legalizing marijuana use for recreational uses. “I will be more stringent to prevent non-medical use of the drug,” he said.
Litzman praised Bar Siman Tov for being socially minded even though Treasury officials naturally like to cut expenses. “He is making revolutions, but cannabis is peanuts compared to the changes we will make in the ministry and in hospitals. There are many things that have to be improved in the ministry.”
He also praised Afek for 18 months of making reforms.
The outgoing director-general listed mental health reform, publication of hospitals’ ratings on key services, the training in the US of stroke experts for early treatment, coping with medical needs during Operation Protective Edge last summer, and recognizing the credentials of nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to aid the inadequate number of working doctors.