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(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday instructed the Health Ministry and the
government in general to explain within two months why they have failed to
reform mental health care during the last 15 years. The state asked the court
for permission to postpone its response.
The Health Ministry has long
provided inadequate budgets for psychiatric services, leading to inadequate care
and long delays, forcing many patients – especially children – to seek expensive
private care or go without.
A reform plan dating back to 1997 recommended
that the four public health funds take over responsibility so that more money
would be available and psychiatric care would be treated like all other medical
care supplied by the insurers. But the Treasury balked at spending ever-rising
amounts of shekels – numbering in the millions – through the health funds, and
the Health Ministry has not been strong enough to persuade the more powerful
The Supreme Court had issued a restraining order in
2005 that instructed the state to act “immediately” and carry out the reform,
but it did not do so.
The Health and Finance Ministries told the justices
that since the last discussion in December, they had held “intensive meetings to
examine all the aspects of transferring responsibility for psychiatric services
to the health funds,” which were included in these discussions. But, they
continued, “because of the complexity of the issues in implementing the reform,”
ministry professionals say they need another month to complete the work and
reach a decision.
The petition against the government had been made by
Bizchut, Otzma and other public organizations demanding the reform. Otzma
chairman Prof. Eli Shamir said “the government must not again fail to carry out
its decision” to transfer responsibility for mental health services to the
health funds. The delay has caused a heavy price in the health and lives of
people suffering from mental illness, as well as on their families, he said.
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