Mental health inmate rests in bed [illustrative] 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jianan Yu)
Despite widespread criticism following Wednesday’s arrest of 70 personnel at
Petah Tikva’s Neveh Yaakov private mental health institute for suspected abuse,
the Health Ministry denied any claims that it has been inadequately supervising
operations of private hostels for the mentally ill.
On Thursday, the
ministry said that it had held a number of “surprise visits” at the psychiatric
facility “that showed everything is OK; we didn’t succeed in using ordinary
means at our disposal to investigate complaints.”
The ministry added that
it seemed there was a “cover-up resulting from many reasons, partly by the
The arrests on Wednesday resulted in an
investigation of complaints by family members and others of alleged sexual and
physical abuse of adult patients, who range in age from 20 to 70.
ministry said that it decided to complain to the police at the end of 2011 to
deepen the investigation. It added that before it notified the authorities,
family members had filed complaints, but the police documents were closed “due
to inadequate evidence” of abuse.
It added that “in light of the findings
of the investigation, we are about to implement an ‘alternate plan to close the
institution and provide other places’ for hospitalization of the patients.”
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who warned about the Neveh Yaakov institution in May of
last year, said the Health Ministry “was late in taking action and left the
helpless patients exposed to abuse and violence.”
“The time has come to
transfer care of psychiatric patients from entrepreneurs and other private
contractors back to the state. This affair is the result of the drying up of
funds and sped-up privatization in psychiatric institutions. This neglected
field must be put in professional, skilled hands,” he said.
As for the
ministry’s decision to close down the hostel, Gilon said, “Better late than
never, but at this stage, alternate solutions for 155 patients are needed
Meanwhile, AKIM (the Association for the Rehabilitation of
the Intellectually Disabled) called on the government to significantly increase
its supervision of those with mental disabilities.
AKIM expressed its
shock at the criminal acts allegedly perpetrated against the patients,
especially at the hands of the people responsible for caring for
The non-profit not only works to protect the rights of the mentally
disabled but also operates hostels and small sheltered homes for
When patients are cared for in small groups, it said, they receive
much better personal treatment. It called for expanding the integration of the
mentally ill into society.
Another voluntary organization, Lishma, said
it was shocked by the Neveh Yaakov affair and suggested that this was “just the
tip of the iceberg” of abuse against the weak and troubled. It noted that the
number of Health Ministry inspectors of psychiatric facilities is “very small,
and they have little authority and work without transparency.”
per-diem payment for psychiatric patients is tiny compared to the per-diem in
general hospitals,” the organization said, noting that as a result good care is
not facilitated in many private institutions.
director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu issued on Thursday a circular to relevant
officials saying that caregivers and others must report to the police or a
social worker any suspicion of abuse of minors or other helpless people, while
at the same time protecting medical privacy even though the patient may object
to the reporting.