A baby playing (illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Services provided by well-baby (Tipat Halav) clinics around the country are “inadequate, and the Health Ministry has been systematically ignoring the situation there,” said Yesh Atid MK Karen Elharar in a Knesset State Control Committee discussion on Tuesday. “I am not at ease about the situation; in-depth reform is needed to ensure our children’s health,” she said.
Elharar added that the committee’s discussion “shocked me. I am greatly and deeply disappointed by the Health Ministry. The impression we get is that the Tipat Halav clinics are not important enough for the ministry. It makes me furious to learn that there are still unsuitable buildings; there are not enough nurses; they have tasks they are unable to fill. Computerized data are inadequate,” said the MK.
In the last few years, 10 new vaccinations have been added, and the number of births increases every year, while manpower slots for public health nurses have not, she said. “The ministry’s regulations from 2007 stated that there would be one nurse for every 375 infants, 100 toddlers and 50 pregnant women."
“But in fact, in Rehovot there is one nurse per 660 infants and 132 toddlers.
In Jerusalem there are 714 infants and 126 toddlers per nurse (and 296 unmanned job slots for nurses), and in Petah Tikva, the situation is the worst, with 1,043 infants and 193 toddlers per nurse.”
More than 2,000 public health nurses work in 500 Tipat Halav clinics around the country.
In the past, the State Comptroller’s Office has noted that Tipat Halav clinics must be reorganized and transferred to the four public health funds. Today, they are run by the municipalities and the local authorities and the Health Ministry, said Elharar.
“We have not heard of any changes.”
Dr. Boaz Lev, a former director- general and associate director-general of the ministry who is now, after retirement, its complaints ombudsman, said that before the discussion, the ministry collected data. For every 1,000 registered children, there were five typos and human errors which had no clinical significance, he maintained. During the discussion, ministry officials said the State Comptroller “is aware of improvements in the computer system in the clinics,” but the MK said the State Comptroller’s Office is “unaware” of them.
Lev said the ministry is making “great efforts to improve the clinics, and they are in better shape than those in most of the rest of the world.”
The ministry has not asked the Treasury for additional funds for the clinics, said Elharar, and there has been no initiative to get more nurses or incentives to encourage Beduin and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) nurses to work for Tipat Halav.
Tipat Halav nurses are responsible for vaccinating babies and toddlers, following the growth and development of newborns and toddlers, checking their hearing, and carrying out other tasks, as well as monitoring pregnant women who don’t go to a gynecologist.
This was the third discussion of well-baby clinics in the committee. Another session is slated to be held soon.