(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The Israel Medical Association sent a letter to Prime Minister (and acting Health Minister) Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday, opposing his and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman’s plans to delay the construction of a reinforced emergency room at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.
Litzman says that old bones found on the plot planned for the facility are Jewish and “cannot be moved” according to Jewish law, but the Antiquities Authority insists they are remains of pagans or Christians from many centuries ago.
The hospital was the target of Palestinian terrorist missiles and rockets from Gaza during the Cast Lead Operation over a year ago.
IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman noted in the letter that the hospital is 12 kilometers from Gaza and also functions as a District Health Office, serving 500,000 residents as well as soldiers stationed in the area.
During the war in the south, 80 percent of patients had to be sent home prematurely because being at Barzilai – unprotected from rocket attacks and targeted by the terrorists – was too dangerous. Twelve years ago, said Eidelman, the government accepted the IMA’s position that the hospital needed a fortified emergency room, but the discovery of the bones and the position of Litzman – a Ger hassid from United Torah Judaism – put a hold on it.
The cabinet decided two weeks ago to support the position of the deputy health minister, but it postponed until this coming Sunday a decision on how to accommodate the needs of the hospital, possibly by building a “protective shell” around the existing emergency room until a new one would be built on a parking lot quite distant from the present site. Barzilai administrators say the change will cost more than NIS 100 million more and delay completion by over a year.
Litzman, who has run the ministry for the last year, declined to discuss the controversy at a press conference he held this week on a survey that found Israelis are more satisfied with their health funds and the health system than two years ago.
The IMA argued in the letter that the distance between the planned
emergency room and surgical theaters, radiology and intensive care units
would needlessly endanger patients in the event of Gazan attacks. In
addition, it would require the hiring of more staff to wheel the
patients around. Litzman’s proposed building on the ground would be
smaller and less safe than the previously planned underground site,
Eidelman said, adding that the extra expenses were a waste of money that
would come at the expense of other Health Ministry projects.
“It could cost lives of patients and endanger the medical staff. The
construction has been delayed again as if there has never been a war in
Israel,” the IMA chairman said.