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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In the year that has elapsed since the end of the Second Lebanon War, nothing has been done to fortify hospitals in the North to withstand missile attacks, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said Tuesday.
Lindenstrauss summarized a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee convened to discuss the state of hospitals during the war and what has been done since then to improve the situation.
During the discussion, committee chairman Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) warned he would consider recommending the establishment of a state commission of inquiry to investigate the matter.
According to Dr. Danny Laor, head of the Health Ministry's department responsible for handling emergency situations, the ministry has proposed a seven-year plan costing NIS 1.4 billion to take advantage of hospital spaces that can be fortified at a reasonable cost.
In the meantime, the government has not given money to the hospitals to begin work.
According to Lindenstrauss, the government made a decision in principle to fortify the hospitals but has not supplied funding. Nevertheless, it is telling hospitals to ask for the money from donors, he said.
Prof. Rafi Bayer, the director-general of Haifa's Rambam Hospital, said the government had absolved itself of all responsibility for the matter.
"We obtained a donation of NIS 100 million to fortify our emergency wards and underground parking," he told the committee. "The government did not allocate anything for these purposes."
Orlev said: "The picture that is emerging on the matter of fortifying the hospitals is very troublesome and worrisome. We are talking about a region [the North] where the threat was predictable. Despite the cabinet decision on June 24 to fund the fortification of the hospitals, not a single hospital has received money."
Health Ministry director-general Prof. Avi Yisraeli said hospitals were only protected against shrapnel from indirect hits. He said there was a gap between the standard of fortification that had been set in practice for hospitals and the standard of fortification that the committee was talking about.
While most members of the committee said the government must do more to fortify the hospitals, MK Michael Eitan (Likud) said one hospital had asked for NIS 160m. to protect an estimated 1,000 patients who would be under treatment during a military emergency.
"Has anyone bothered to check whether the same amount of money invested in medicine or equipment and improvement of sanitary conditions would not save more people from death or disability?" he asked.
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