Health Ministry deputy D-G Grotto stepping down

He has been with the ministry for 13 years.

Prof. Itamar Grotto (photo credit: FLASH90)
Prof. Itamar Grotto
(photo credit: FLASH90)
Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto on Sunday announced his intention to resign by the end of the year after being with the ministry for 13 years.
“Throughout all these years, throughout all these activities, we have known agreements and collaboration, we have known disputes and disagreements,” Grotto wrote in a letter addressed to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and director-general Chezy Levy. “Above all else stood the most common and immense desire – to face and overcome all the difficulties along the way.”
Those close to Grotto said that he was departing after a year of serving at the forefront of the battle against the novel coronavirus and that he was leaving for the benefit of his own mental and physical health – that there was no bad blood.
In his letter, Grotto wrote that he was going to end his duties “in order to rest a little and embark on a new path.”
He said that “the State Israel, together with all of humanity, is dealing with the severe virus that has attacked the entire world’ and that he has “devoted my best efforts and done everything I can, and a little more – to deeply connect” and support the country’s efforts.
Grotto has been in the field for 31 years and began training to be a doctor through the IDF’s Academic Atuda program.
“I am happy with this choice as well as my decision to specialize in public health,” he wrote.
Under his tenure, the Health Ministry dealt with multiple challenges.
“Long before the coronavirus, we fought together against several severe and dangerous epidemics – such as SARS (2003), bird flu (2006), swine flu (2009), polio (2013) and Ebola (2014),” he wrote. “In the last year, the complex dynamics of the coronavirus have made it difficult… but I know that every step along the way the professionals did their very best.
“Inside and out, we will find the answers and solutions” to the virus, he said, “and we will learn to overcome this virus as well, just as we overcame its predecessors.”
Edelstein thanked Grotto.
“Apart from the fact that he is a first-rate professional, Prof. Grotto is a man with a huge heart who is ready to help anyone in distress,” the minister said. “Prof. Grotto has been a great asset to the ministry for many years.”
Head of Public Health Services Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis also responded: "Every senior official who leaves has a reason. Some should have left before the coronavirus, but remained. Any such departure is not simple for the good people who led our health system." She said she was confident a qualified professional would replace him.
Later, Grotto responded in interviews with the media. He said that he had planned to serve in his role for longer, but the coronavirus crisis "was like 10 years for me."  
A source in the know confirmed that the last year has been particularly “grueling” and “abrasive” for senior officials in the ministry, including Grotto, as they battle COVID-19. He said that people on the outside “cannot understand what it is like” to manage the virus.
“All these people in the TV studio like to say to handle it this way or that way let’s see them do the job,” the source said. “They do not realize how complicated it is.”
Grotto has been responsible for reporting many times to the Knesset Coronavirus Committee, for example, whose members have attacked the ministry and him personally over data transparency and its epidemiological recommendations. The deputy director-general was often put on the defensive.
The ministry source said that he would not be surprised if a handful of officials of equal caliber announce their resignations in the near future, too.
Grotto’s announcement comes on the heels of several other departures in the last nine months, since the start of the pandemic, including director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov and head of public health Prof. Sigal Sadetski. Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu is scheduled to transition from his role on November 15 and will be replaced by Prof. Nachman Ash.