(photo credit: Courtesy Shaare Zedek Medical Center))
The Knesset State Control Committee will on Monday hold a session to discuss the State Comptroller’s recent investigation of the state of well-baby (tipat halav) clinics. The investigation, part of the comptroller’s report in May on the Health Ministry, found that the community clinics suffer from a lack of nurses and information, long queues, sub-standard buildings and lack of followup.
There are 1,000 tipat halav clinics around the country; 43 percent own and run by the ministry in municipal facilities; the health funds own and operate 52%’ while the clinics in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are (by historical precedents) owned and run by the municipalities.
Committee chairman MK Amnon Cohen said Thursday that although the tipat halav nurses “do holy work, the present situation causes irreversible damage to the health of our children.” The situation, he added, must be corrected immediately.
The comptroller’s criticism was aimed not only at the ministry bur also at the local authorities and the health funds, all of which run their own clinics. About one million infants and toddlers are handled by the clinics each year, giving vaccinations and checking vision, weight and weight and development. They also counsel parents and examine women during pregnancy.
The comptroller found that especially in high-birth-rate haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) communities, there are too few nurses; in fact, 20 job slots in this sector go unfilled. As a result, the existing tipat halav nurses are overworked. Infants have to wait long periods to get their immunizations; checkups are delayed; and mothers do not get home visits after giving birth.
In addition, the clinics are open only during the morning and early-afternoon hours, forcing parents to take off work to take their children in. The comptroller also complained that the ministry does not inform the clinic nurses about babies who are not registered or even when a new baby in the area is born. Even though each year, tens of thousands of children up to the age of six are injured and taken to hospital emergency rooms where some receive anti-tetanus and other vaccinations, the community clinics were not sent such information so shots are given again unnecessarily. The physical condition of many tipat halav stations is very poor, while there are new neighborhoods with many children that don’t have even one station. The four public health funds may provide well-baby services in Judea and Samaria if they accept families that are members of other health funds. The comptroller said it pays Clalit Health Services, the largest insurer, for these services even though it “has not met this obligation.”
Asked to comment, the Health Ministry did not issue a new statement but merely recycled the answers it gave the State Comptroller’s Office before it issued the bi-annual report. Then, the ministry said it “has initiated a multi-year program to improve the status and image of tipat halav stations and its nurses. This program, said the ministry, will increase manpower, maintenance budgets, construction, computerization and equipment purchases. The ministry is also considering an extension of reception hours.” The ministry also maintained that his has taken various steps to find haredi nurses to serve in these areas.