TA clinic for illegal workers, refugees to close

Physicians for Human Rights: Health Ministry must take responsibility.

doctors 224.88 (photo credit:)
doctors 224.88
(photo credit: )
The Physicians for Human Rights-Israel clinic in Tel Aviv, which has for years taken care of illegal foreign workers and refugees, will shut down within a week, PHR announced Sunday, adding that taking care of these populations was the Health Ministry's responsibility. The growing burden of treating illegals, whose numbers have increased 70 percent in the last year, made it impossible to continue, PHR-Israel said. Health ministry spokeswoman Einav Shimron-Greenboim said that non-Israeli residents are not covered by the National Health Insurance Law and that they (or their employers) must purchase private medical insurance coverage. "Anyone who needs emergency care, whether he is a legal resident or not, will get it in hospital emergency rooms. A special medical insurance law provides state health care to children of illegal foreigners so they can get vaccinations and treatment; this is provided through the Meuhedet [health fund] under ministry supervision," the ministry spokeswoman said. Nevertheless, she said, from time to time the ministry learned of illegal residents who were suffering from serious diseases but had no insurance and could not afford to pay for care. In such cases, she explained, the ministry made an effort to address individual cases in a humanitarian manner. The ministry spokeswoman also said that the health system operated under budgetary restrictions, thus "it is very difficult to transfer funding for the treatment of illegal residents" beyond exceptional cases. PHR-Israel said that it examined and treated 504 non-Israeli patients in 2007, compared to 301 in 2006. The influx has become greater in recent months, with 100 people coming to the clinic on an average night. "The clinic is collapsing because the Health Ministry has never taken responsibility for it," the organization said. It also charged the ministry with showing "irresponsibility" in ignoring the patients and would no longer serve as the ministry's "fig leaf." "Our clinic will not be an excuse for the state not taking responsibility for them," PHR-Israel said. Over the next few days, the clinic will distribute flyers among the city's illegal residents, explaining that they should seek care at hospital emergency rooms or to demand help directly from the Health Ministry. PHR-Israel director Hadas Ziv said she hoped the closing of the Tel Aviv clinic, which was the result of its collapse and the organization's expression of protest, would "wake up" Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri and induce him to take responsibility for the health of refugees.