School nurse 311.
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
Opponents to the privatization of the School Health Service voiced objections to
the Health Ministry’s decision to allow the private company to continue to
operate in most of the country.
All the opponents, from the National
Council for the Child to the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee,
demanded the vital service be renationalized and provided by public health
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who previously as Knesset
Finance Committee chairman advocated privatization, said in the Knesset on
Tuesday that none of the three companies competing in a public tender offered a
decent proposal, thus the tender was cancelled.
The three applicants were
Nataly, a cardiac rescue service; the Association for Public Health; and Bikur-
Rofeh. The “association,” which despite its name is a for-profit company
established by former Health Ministry officials, was found by the state
comptroller to be a failure as provider of school health services. The other
company, a Magen David Adom subsidiary, was chosen in a tender after the
association, but also judged a failure by the comptroller.
Health Service is responsible not only with vaccinating school children but also
with educating them to adopt healthy lifestyles and avoid smoking, drinking
alcohol, taking hard drugs, eating disorders and other harmful behaviors. It
also is supposed to perform checks to detect scoliosis, vision problems and
others. Before privatization, the ministry’s public health nurses provided
satisfactory service, and schools had their own nurse on hand much of the school
But the comptroller found repeated foul-ups, even failure to get all
children vaccinated properly, besides the private companies’ inability to
provide screening and health education. The companies claimed the Treasury –
which initiated privatization and to which Health Ministry officials acceded –
didn’t allocate enough money for it to be done right. The Finance Ministry had
originally claimed privatization would save significant amounts of money, but
the comptroller seriously doubted that.
Last year, under severe criticism
and facing lawsuits, Litzman said the Southern District’s School Health Service
would be supplied by public health nurses, as this area is specially problematic
with the Beduin residents and those in development towns. There have been too
few nurses available, but Litzman told the committee Tuesday it had allocated 87
job slots for staffers in the area.
The ministry’s explanation for the
cancellation of the tender was that one of the companies made a much lower bid
than the others, which put into doubt the company’s ability to provide decent
But the other two asked for ridiculously high amounts for the
service, thus posing losses to the public purse.
The first company has
been invited to respond within seven days, thus the ministry’s cancellation
decision was not officially final.
Since privatization proved a failure,
the Treasury has not explained why it does not agree to
The Finance Ministry did not comment
Following the Health Ministry announcement, Dr. Yitzhak
Kadman, from National Council for the Child, wrote to Litzman and Health
Ministry Director- General Prof. Ronni Gamzu that, in recent days, he learned of
the results of a new report with very severe criticism of the way Nataly, the
current provider, has been functioning. Without revealing who wrote the report,
Kadman said it would be wrong for its conclusions to be implemented only
partially or in certain locations.
“We have been here before. The severe
findings about the failings of the School Health Service were discovered years
ago, when the Association for Public Health was the first selected to run it,”
“The source of the problem is not just the private company
chosen. The Original Sin is irresponsible and hopeless privatization, turning a
good state service that worked for dozens of years until it was financially
dried up” by the Treasury, which is the usual first stage of privatization, he
“The real problem is not the dirt and spider webs found in the
nurses’ room or failure by nurses to wear gloves while vaccinating, or failure
to properly register the vaccinations – which are themselves serious,” said the
council head. The real problem is that privatization dictated the way it would
have inevitably been carried out, Kadman said. One can’t and mustn’t be silent
when “this insufferable game, cruel to the health and safety of 1.5 million
pupils through ninth grade continues.”
Kadman charged “privatization
absolutely failed at higher cost than nationalization. We received much worse
service. Admit it. And [those responsible for] the failure don’t admit
responsibility. More harm to children’s health must be prevented.”
called on Litzman and Gamzu to stand at the head of those who demand
nationalization and to restore the public nurses around the country.
Association for Civil Rights in Israel joined in the call for the restoration of
a public School Health Service, and charged that its poor provision increased
the social gap.
The Israel Medical Association also demanded
renationalization of the service in the whole country.