Knesset panel calls on PM to intervene in doctors' strike

MK Hasson: 1,500 Israelis die annually from hospital crowding, infections; IMA’s sanctions to shut down all hospital outpatient clinics, diagnostic institutes and day hospitals.

By
June 23, 2011 03:53
3 minute read.
Doctors protest outside the Knesset [file]

doctors protest 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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The health system is “ill and everything in it is a patchwork,” Boaz Aner, deputy director-general of the State Comptroller’s Office, said on Wednesday at a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee discussing the overcrowding of the hospitals.

Years of disputes between the Finance and Health ministries that have not been resolved have resulted in a severe shortage of medical manpower, Aner said. As a result, the Health Ministry’s proposals over the years to deal with the shortage of physicians and the lack of medical staffers have not been brought to the government for decisions.

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Every year, some 1,500 Israelis die as a result of hospital overcrowding causing “nosocomial infections” in the hospitals (that occur due to being in the hospital), committee chairman MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) revealed during the discussion, based on new reports. This figure is three times that of the toll of road accidents that the state invests many millions of shekels in to minimize, he said.

The committee chairman urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is formally health minister, to intervene in the two-and-a-halfmonth series of doctors’ sanctions, as “it can go on this way. Human lives are being harmed, as are health services.”

Netanyahu has not intervened at all since they began, and at least publicly, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) has not either, at least until this past week, when he has proposed his own ideas to shorten night and weekend shifts of medical residents rather than cut the number of their shifts per month, which the Treasury and the Israel Medical Association both oppose. Negotiations have proceeded before and during the labor dispute between the Treasury and the IMA began.

The IMA’s sanctions on Thursday will shut down all hospital outpatient clinics, diagnostic institutes and day hospitals (except for oncology), with surgical operations to be carried out as usual. Sanctions for next week will be announced on Thursday unless something changes during the Tel Aviv Labor Court session due to be held – again – on Thursday night.

Hasson revealed a report on nosocomial infections in the hospitals caused by hospital crowding and said he was shocked by the findings. He demanded that Health Ministry director- general Dr. Ronni Gamzu present an operational plan within six weeks to deal with the problem. “The responsibility for these shocking statistics is the Health Ministry’s – and if it is not able to make changes or is not getting enough budget, it must sound the alarm.”

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Haya Politi of the State Comptroller’s Office said that alongside the overburdening of the hospitals, there is “medical tourism and patients from the Palestinian Authority who get VIP treatment.”

Although Litzman told the committee that internal medicine beds “have been added,” Kadima MK and gynecologist Rachel Adatto charged that these beds have been announced over and over and are “virtual beds. Some 960 addition beds are spread over six years. Just 160 new beds (and manpower) a year do not meet the needs” of the growing and ageing population, and in fact, 3,600 hospital beds are urgently needed.

IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said that the speed at which the population is ageing is the third-highest in the world, and the state is investing less and less in health services and facilities. The situation is even worse in the periphery.

A medical resident at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba says the average hospital patient waits “five hours to see a doctor,” and internal medicine departments are shutting down due to the lack of staffers. Dr. Dror Dicker, chairman of the Internal Medicine Society, called the situation “a national catastrophe.”

He added that 500 Israeli physicians are now preparing to leave to work in a new hospital built by Israelis in Equatorial Guinea where they will earn much more and have much easier conditions.

Prof. Shaul Dolberg of the Neonatology Society said at a conference on Wednesday that “we are fighting not for salaries but against the disappearance of our specialty,” as fewer doctors are willing to work in the difficult field taking care of premature babies. He says that promises to expand the number of manned beds in the departments have not been kept. The overcrowding in neonatal units and the shortage of professional staffers has increased the rate of infections and increased the mortality rate among the very small infants.

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