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Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is pushing to change the National Insurance Institute's (NII) law according to which temporary residents are not entitled to coverage of urgent medical treatment until 183 days after their residential status is determined.
PHR, a non-profit organization whose volunteer physicians in Israel primarily help Palestinians reach appropriate medical care and Israelis in need of proper health care, filed a petition with the High Court of Justice in the matter of Lydia Zoyev in mid-May.
Zoyev, 66, a temporary resident, arrived in Israel from the Ukraine in May 2004 to nurse her daughter, Yanna Siminchin, who was dying of cancer at the time. When Yanna died a year later, her mother stayed in Israel to take care of her two grandchildren, one of whom is serving in the IDF and the other of whom is seven years old. Zoyev became a temporary resident this past April.
Four months ago, in March, Zoyev suffered a massive heart attack and underwent open-heart surgery. Help and funding was facilitated by the welfare department in the southern city of Arad, where the family resides. Arad's welfare department also introduced the family to Selah, the crisis management center for new immigrants, which helped them cover some of the costs.
But Zoyev needs more medications and a cardiological examination following the surgery that left her with swollen legs that need frequent draining of liquids, and her medical condition continues to worsen due to a delay of these treatments. According to the NII law, however, medical treatments can only be covered six months after the patient's residential status is formally determined.
Aid money is running out, and if she does not receive medical treatments soon, she may develop necrosis in both her legs.
"Lydia stayed here because she is the children's only legal guardian," said Ruth Bar-On, director of Selah. "We paid for what we could. For the mother's tombstone, the grandmother's hospitalization and ambulances and for someone to take care and watch the little girl when she had to stay alone. Now Lydia urgently needs more treatments because her medical condition keeps deteriorating. It is admirable that Israel does disaster work in world crises but there is a need also for disaster work here, where people who are entitled to health care don't get it on time."
In response, the NII claimed, "even though we fully understand Mrs. Zoyev's bad condition, we are not allowed to act against the law. However, starting from October 2007, Mrs. Zoyev will be entitled to medical treatment coverage like any other resident and can present receipts from her medical treatments to the special committee at the Health Ministry and be compensated for most of her treatments."
Yael Vidan, coordinator of case work at PHR, told The Jerusalem Post that the organization had received three more similar cases in the past week.
"If Lydia's case at court does not reach a satisfying conclusion at least for those temporary residents who need urgent medical treatment, we will file a representative petition to the High Court of Justice in an attempt to change the law, with no exceptions," said Vidan.
Vidan added that in most of these cases of severely ill new immigrants, there are no relatives or financial resources to exhaust in order to pay for the urgent and expensive medical treatments during the waiting period of 183 days.
"This fact undermines the law's intention of promising accessibility to health care to all Israeli residents and citizens," Vidan said.