School nurse 311.
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
The Health Ministry failed to carry out a court order to choose – by January 1 –
a private company for running the School Health Service in most of the country
or to provide a full complement of public health nurses in Ashkelon and
southward as promised.
The state comptroller has in recent years severely
criticized the government – the Treasury for its privatization policy and the
Health Ministry for its implementation of that policy – regarding the School
Health Service, which until six years ago was provided by public health nurses
who were state employees. The Treasury claimed privatizing the service would
save a few tens of millions of shekels a year, but the comptroller denied
The School Health Service used to include not only vaccinations but
also nurses in schools for providing first aid and health education – on
overweight and eating disorders, smoking, drugs and relationships with the
opposite sex. The three companies that were chosen sequentially after they were
judged to have failed in providing even basic immunization to pupils were the
for-profit Association for the Advancement of Public Health, a private
subsidiary of Magen David Adom, and the Nataly cardiac ambulance service, which
continues to be responsible for the service.
According to the Health
Ministry, the three candidate companies in the tender are the Association for
the Advancement of Public Health (set up by former ministry employees); Nataly;
and BikurRofeh, which the Israel Defense Forces initially hired to treat
soldiers but was replaced by the four health funds.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman,
head of the National Council for the Child, said on Sunday the “situation in the
field is catastrophic” and blamed the Health Ministry for failing to properly
provide service in the South due to “budgetary problems and bureaucracy.” He
maintained that one of the companies for the tender claimed it was “not
financially worthwhile” to run the School Health Service in Jerusalem and to
settlements in Judea and Samaria, and this is liable to be handed over to the
association, despite its failed record. Service in the rest of the country, said
Kadman, is due to remain the responsibility of Nataly.
continued, “is irresponsible” and has cost the country much money due to “harm
to children’s health.”
The Health Ministry said last year that due to the
failure to provide adequate nursing services in southern schools, the service
would return to the state. The Treasury agreed to finance this.
council called on Prime Minister and formally Health Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who previously as Knesset Finance
Committee chairman advocated privatization, to cancel privatization of the
School Health Service nationwide and provide the necessary funds for
The Health Ministry stated Sunday that carrying out the court
decision to find a competent replacement for the companies was “a complicated
challenge... and remains so.” It cited the “regional division” of services
between the state and private companies and the economic and logistical
The tender board is “now doing serious work with professional
advice and will take another week at least” to complete it. Until then, Nataly
will continue to run the School Health Service, the ministry said.
Public Health Nurses’ union declared a labor dispute on Sunday because they have
all not been rehired by the Health Ministry to run the School Health
The Health Ministry said that starting January 1, the first 40
public health nurses have begun to take up their posts in Ashkelon and the
southern district’s schools. The rest approved for the area will be added
gradually, it said.