Health Ministry acts to prevent elder abuse in geriatric institutions

Social welfare organizations label supervision an ‘absolute failure’ after pictures of abuse are released.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After being “shocked and shaken” by pictures broadcast on Channel 2 of elder abuse at the Neot Kipat Hazahav geriatric home in Haifa, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said he will take a number of measures to fight such abuse.
Supervision of the country’s geriatric institutions will be toughened, he said on Sunday, and the number of ministry inspectors will be increased. Video cameras will be installed and surprise visits will be made to geriatric facilities.
However, people from the Haifa geriatric home said that some of the ministry’s “surprise visits” were not really sudden, as someone leaked the information days before, providing time during which the institution was turned into an “attractive hotel for a day.” Litzman did not say how this would be prevented in the future.
Geriatric hospital directors were summoned on Sunday afternoon to the district health office for a hearing.
During the meeting, the ministry spokesman said its management will “decide on steps to take to ensure the safety of residents of the institutions.”
Most geriatric institutions today are privately owned and run for profit, not owned and operated by the state.
The minister declared that the horrendous images of abuse of the sick and elderly showed “a loss of all humanity, and horrible harm to helpless people. We must act to prevent such cases immediately.
I instructed [ministry officials] to take immediate steps to increase supervision on all the nursing facilities for which we are responsible...
It is our obligation as a state to take clear and significant steps for the sake of the previous generation,” said Litzman. He added that he would not hesitate to close the offending institution in accordance with decisions by professionals headed by his director-general, Moshe Bar Siman Tov.
Litzman reiterated his call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon – which he made a few weeks ago – to immediately implement the proposed reform for state-subsidized nursing care of the elderly.
Bar Siman Tov called on anyone who knows of abuse against the elderly to report it to *5400 by phone or online to Call.Habriut@ Reports will alert inspectors who will then quickly reach the institutions, he said.
Meanwhile, MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), chairman of the Knesset Lobby for Pensioners, demanded a parliamentary investigation panel to look into inhumane conditions in some geriatric nursing homes.
“The patients have turned into human punching bags exposed to beatings and being tied and abused,” he said. “We must push for the passing of the geriatric nursing bill that will restore responsibility to the state, increase supervision and place responsibility not only on the attackers but also the hospital directors,” he added.
Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel said violators must be punished immediately and that the government is responsible for preventing any recurrence. She called for the establishment of an interministerial team to deal with the problem.
A half-dozen various social welfare organizations joined together to call on Netanyahu and Kahlon to take action to pass the geriatric nursing bill.
“Supervision of the Health Ministry has been an absolute failure. The Haifa facility underwent a check by ministry supervisors 10 months ago and received a ‘very good’ mark in the report. The ministry doesn’t have the real ability to supervise what is happening,” the organizations wrote in a statement.