Gamzu ‘reiterates’ rules on private patients in public hospitals

Issue lays in voluntary public hospitals where private medical services are permitted not to allow doctors to get paid directly by either foreign or Israeli patients.

By JUDY SIEGEL
December 25, 2013 03:23
2 minute read.
Hospital bed

Hospital bed. (photo credit: Wikicommons)

 
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Health Ministry director-general Ronni Gamzu issued a stern written warning on Tuesday to directors of voluntary public hospitals where private medical services are permitted not to allow doctors to get paid directly by either foreign or Israeli patients.

Instead, the money must go to the hospital itself. In addition, he stated that in hospitals owned by the ministry or Clalit Health Services, payment by local or foreign patients to choose a specific doctor is prohibited.

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But at the same time, doctors in the public health system may refer patients in their private practice, outside public hospitals, for treatment in public institutions, and “this should be regarded positively,” Gamzu wrote. But at the same time, there must be no statement or promise, hinted or outright, that the doctor who referred the patient would give “personal supervision” for a personal fee at the public hospital.

Private medical services (sharap) are legal and traditional in all of Jerusalem’s medical centers, and at Netanya’s Laniado Medical Center, because they are owned by voluntary organizations and not by the government or by Clalit Health Services.

Sharap is forbidden at all other public hospitals.

In hospitals where Sharap is allowed, patients have the right to choose the physician they want to consult with or who will operate on them, but they are not entitled to be pushed ahead of non-paying Israeli patients waiting in the queue, Gamzu said.

Gamzu said that these, and other, rules had been stated before by the ministry and that he was reiterating them. But experts well familiar with the hospital system say they are violated frequently by under-the-table payments, shorter queues and other arrangements.



The ministry’s professional administrators have been trying to regulate arrangements over medical tourism, but this has been opposed by politicians in the government so as not to “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

Alleged misdealings were raised by Channel 2’s Uvda investigatory program a week ago. It claimed that three senior surgeons at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, where Sharap is not allowed, charged foreign tourists high fees for operating on them in the public hospital.

The three insisted they were paid for extra services carried out in their private offices and not for the surgery.

Gamzu wrote that medical staffers in public hospitals must “not confuse their private work outside the public hospital, especially in their private practices, with their public work in the hospital.”

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