A hospital in Ashdod is getting closer to realization, as the interministerial tender committee of the Finance and Health ministries and the Israel Lands Administration decided this week to issue a public tender for the establishment of the proposed health center. Most Ashdod residents go to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot for treatment. After analyzing responses to a request for information about building a hospital in Ashdod, the panel decided to ask for bids, and the tender will appear within a few months. Last month, an advertising campaign was launched by the Ashdod Municipality and Mayor Zvi Zilker, designed to persuade the state to grant a Health Ministry license to the planned non-profit hospital. The campaign, produced by Morel-Tzur Communications, featured radio and newspaper ads presenting Ashdod residents whose relatives had "died outside the gate" of the Ashkelon and Rehovot hospitals, with the message that they lived too far away to get medical help in time. After the spokesmen of both hospitals complained about the campaign and the Health Ministry voiced its objections - Barzilai is a state-owned hospital - the campaign was halted. Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri has said he supports building a hospital in Ashdod, as his ministry has warned about a shortage of hospital beds across the country as the population grows and ages, but the Treasury has opposed the building of another hospital. The municipality even petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Treasury, and although a law was passed years ago to build such a hospital, nothing was implemented. But after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last year that an Ashdod hospital would be built, the Treasury finally backed down. Ashdod has been demanding a hospital of its own for decades, Zilker said, as far back as when the city had 30,000 residents. Today 235,000 people live there, and if a hospital license was granted now and it was built in six years, by then there would be more than a quarter of a million, he continued. The mayor said he knew of no city of that size in the Western world that didn't have a hospital. At present, Ashdod has only an emergency room. So far, three groups have put in a bid: Refuah Viyeshua (composed of Gur hassidim, at the bidding of the Gur rebbe); Assuta Hospital (a chain of private hospitals owned by Maccabi Health Services); and Electra Real Estate. Some sources said that the last two plan to present a united bid for the tender. United Torah Judaism MK Ya'acov Litzman, a Gur hassid, has reportedly been lobbying on behalf of the hospital project and especially for the Gur bid.