Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz denounced the government’s handling of Israel’s health system Sunday night, lambasting the number of Israelis dying from hospital-acquired infections and deficiencies in the health service.
Gantz and his party have begun a strategic focus on defects in the health system as an election issue. This is the third time the Blue and White leader has made a major speech on the issue in the last two weeks.
During a speech in Abu Snan, a mixed Muslim, Druze and Christian Arab local council northeast of Acre, Gantz highlighted the figure of 5,000 people he claimed die every year due to such issues. He called it “Case 5000” in reference to the names of the criminal cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and made several ambitious commitments to improving health care in the country.
Among those commitments was a pledge to fund 2,500 hospital beds, and create positions for 500 doctors and 1,500 nurses.
“Five thousand people die every year in hospitals because of infections and illnesses due to the neglect of our health service,” declared Gantz, although it is unclear exactly where his figure comes from.
“These are the lives of people lying in hospital corridors and waiting for a bed to become free; the lives of people waiting six months for an appointment with a specialist doctor, or waiting for hours in emergency rooms,” continued the Blue and White leader.
Gantz said that he would reduce political earmark budgets and use royalties from Israel’s natural gas reserves to invest in the health system and redress some of its problems.
He also pledged that the next health minister would be from Blue and White to ensure that his pledges are fulfilled.
During Gantz’s speech in Abu Snan, which has a sizable Druze population, the Blue and White leader also pledged to amend the Nation State Law passed in 2018 as a basic law which ascribed national rights to Jews alone in the State of Israel. The law was strongly criticized by many, including the leadership of the Druze community, who said that the law made them second class citizens.
Gantz specifically said, however, that he would amend the law, not repeal it.
“I do not intend to give up on equality. I will work to make the correct amendment. This law is a correct law in its being a nation-state law, but it offended you [the Druze community] – and I intend to anchor equality in a basic law alongside it, because all citizens in Israel have equal rights,” he said.
In response to Gantz’s criticism of the health system, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman sent a letter to the Blue and White leader to inform him of steps the ministry is already taking, or intends to carry out, to redress some of the problems it faces.
Litzman said that the ministry had already adopted a plan to add more than 2,400 new hospital beds, half of which have already been provided and half of which would be provided by 2022.
He also noted that the ministry was in advanced planning for two hospitals, which would add another 1,000 hospital beds to the health service, as well as the addition of 2,500 nurses and more than 1,000 doctors.