Yaacov Litzman 300.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Union of Public Health Nurses expressed dissatisfaction on Tuesday with
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman’s plans to de-privatize school health
services in the south.
Instead, they demanded that vital service
throughout the country be run by nurses who work for the ministry and said that
not a single public nurse will sign a contract with a private
The school health service, which under Treasury pressure was
privatized a few years ago, is theoretically responsible not only for
vaccinations but also medical checks, health promotion and first aid. But
according to strong critics of the handover to private contractors – including
the State Comptroller and public health experts – privatization has been a major
failure, and the succession of companies failed even to give all the
The Treasury claimed it would save millions of shekels, but
this was found by the comptroller to be baseless.
The Health Ministry
reluctantly agreed to privatization, but when Litzman was Knesset Finance
Committee chairman, he supported it and helped get the use of contractors
Speaking before the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee
on Tuesday, Litzman said: “We will take in school nurses in the south as state
workers. We will think about the rest of the regions.”
In a noisy meeting
of the committee, the tender issued by the Health Ministry for a new contractor
to take over services in most of the country’s schools was discussed in a
session initiated by Hadash MK Dov Henin, Israel Beitenu MK Orly Levy-Abecassis
and Labor MK Raleb Majadle.
Acting committee head Levy- Abecassis charged
that “the state forgoes billions of shekels to tycoons [as in rights to offshore
natural gas finds] but it tries to save NIS 7 million for school health services
for our children. The Treasury misleads the government and the Knesset and
presents false calculations. I am worried about the country if this is
the way it is run,” she said.
Henin said that according to reports, since
privatization there has been a sharp decline in the number of vision and hearing
tests and an absolute disappearance of lessons for health
Litzman maintained that the conditions in the new public
tender “have been changed significantly for the better. I decided that from
Ashkelon southwards, the school health service will be returned to public hands
because the situation there in specially difficult. If we see that we succeeded
– and I will try with all my power to do this – we will think about returning
the school health service to the state in other regions as well.
reminded the deputy health minister that during the existence of the previous
Knesset, Litzman had endorsed making the whole service public again.
have harmed the schools’ ability to give holistic care to pupils. There is a
drastic reduction in vaccinations, and research shows that indirect employment
of workers is more expensive than state workers because of the cost of the
middleman. For God’s sake, what else is needed to restore the service to state
Other MKs noted that the institution of the in-house school nurse was
well accepted during the earlier years of the state, but as the country grew
more wealthy, Israel “couldn’t afford” to keep her.
In 1997, when public
health nurses still ran the service, there was one per 1,600 pupils.
year, a few years after privatization, one contractual nurse was responsible for
Yair Zilberstein, the liaison for health in the Finance
Ministry, said that if every school had a nurse to take care of the pupils, it
would cost “a billion shekels and 100 more job slots.” But Levy-Abecassis denied
the figures and demanded that the two ministries recalculate them.
Israel Medical Association, a strong opponent of the privatization, said that
the failure of the contracted services is liable to endanger the health of a
million pupils in grades one to nine. It added that nurses and doctors working
for a contractor have no special room to work from and not even a basin in which
to wash their hands.