(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
A petition to the High Court of Justice against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud faction, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, United Torah Judaism and the entire government was filed by the Israel Medical Association on Sunday, demanding an explanation for why a full-time health minister has not been appointed.
The IMA also asked why the coalition agreement had not been canceled or amended because of the failure to appoint such a person to head the third-largest ministry.
The IMA said it was taking the legal action not only on behalf of the country's physicians but also the whole health sector including the health funds, hospital directors, microbiologists, nurses, maintenance and administrative workers, dentists, pharmacists and social workers.
Failing to appoint a full-fledged health minister, and instead naming a deputy health minister, as Netanyahu agreed to do to bring UTJ into the coalition, is "illegal and unreasonable," the IMA maintained, due to the size and complexity of the ministry, and the crisis in which the health system finds itself.
Among the problems that a minister must cope with immediately are the shortage of hospital beds, doctors and nurses; the inadequate funding of the basket of health service; violence in hospitals and clinics; and inequity in healthcare, it added.
The fact that a minister must be directly responsible for certain functions makes Netanyahu's decision illegal, the IMA said, and given that there are so many ministers-without-portfolio, it is irresponsible.
The statutory and political authority of a deputy minister is limited, the IMA lawyers said; he doesn't not have the power to make changes or carry out major reforms or to sign important regulations. He also is unable to present private bills or be a member of the ministerial committee on legislation.
"Deputy ministers assist ministers but do not hold independent, statutory status," the petition said. Having a deputy minister run the ministry is a "fiction."
Since even a deputy minister has not yet been appointed, the busy prime minister holds responsibility for health, meaning the country has no health minister at all, it continued.
High Court Justice Miriam Na'or decided that the petition would be heard by the end of the month, but declined to issue an interim injunction as requested by the petitioners.
Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.