'Public medicine should not only be for the poor'

Health Minister Yael German tells Knesset State Control Committee ministers must strengthen the public health system.

June 6, 2013 02:21
2 minute read.
Health Minister Yael German.

Health Minister Yael German 370. (photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)

Public medicine must not become the mainstay of the poor, with the private system for well-off citizens, Health Minister Yael German told the Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday.

German spoke during a discussion on the recent State Comptroller’s Report, which devoted a section to her ministry.

German said that the health and finance ministers must strengthen the public health system. Private medicine, the report said, is inadequately supervised by the government.

At present, she said, many families are not aware that many of the services for which they pay supplementary health insurance premiums are already included in the public basket of health services.

Eighty percent of Israelis pay for supplementary health insurance provided by their public health funds.

Committee chairman MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) brought attention to the fact – as raised by the state comptroller – that there is a conflict of interest among doctors who work in both the public and private systems.

The comptroller found that doctors refer patients in public hospitals to their private clinics and hospitals if they want to jump the queues and select their own surgeon or consultant.

Israel Medical Association head Dr. Leonid Eidelman said that government health expenditures have been declining for many years because it regards spending on health “an expense rather than an investment” in high-quality care and equity for all its citizens.

Kupat Holim Meuhedet acting director-general Zev Wurmbrand said that many public hospitals are forced to raise doctors’ salaries to entice them to remain rather than drift into the private system. This forces employment costs even higher, he said.

But Health Ministry directorgeneral Prof. Ronni Gamzu said separating the two systems completely will “hurt both of them.” Instead, he said, “we must carry out complex and significant supervision.”

Prof. Shlomo Vinocur, chairman of the Israel Family Physician Society, said that family doctors find themselves made into “partners for shifting activity to private medicine because of the long lines for consulting public medicine physicians in certain fields.”

Having listened to his colleagues’ complaints, he said there is “daily and growing pressure” on them today, compared to a few years ago. In order to help their patients who can’t wait, they have to tell them that they can pay to go to private clinics and hospitals rather than waiting, Vinocur said.

“Those who can’t afford care fall between the cracks.”

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