Knesset committee debates shocking geriatric conditions

MKs call for more foreign workers to take care of the elderly

An elderly woman. [illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
An elderly woman. [illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The head of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee committed himself on Wednesday to bringing more foreign workers to take care of the elderly sick.
In a discussion of the difficult situation in geriatric nursing homes, MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) said: “There is no more time for debate. I will get help from Knesset Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.”
Alalouf promised to “bring a quick solution to the severe shortage of manpower in geriatric nursing homes.” He also called for implementing geriatric reform, as advocated by Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, by raising health taxes.
“Our compassion and morals as a society have disappeared,” Alalouf said. “Caring for the elderly has become inhuman. The budgets have been eroded and become unrealistic, and the result is neglect.”
Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov said his feelings “veer between desperation and frustration to a bit of optimism.
The aging of the population is a huge challenge, and we are not really prepared for it with a broad national approach. A country is measured by its ability to produce mutual solidarity and responsibility. Our supervising manpower is minuscule, but we do carry out sanctions, including economic ones [against geriatric institutions that are abusive].”
He said the ministry has “launched some actions” as a result of an investigation by Ariela Sternbach of Yediot Aharonot of horrible conditions in nursing homes.
“I wrestle with myself on the question of foreign workers,” Bar Siman Tov said. “Recently, I have been thinking that in some of the cases we should make it possible.”
Dr. Aharon Cohen, who is head of geriatrics at the Health Ministry, said he would “go into depth into the cases exposed by the daily.” He asked the journalist to send him information on complaints she received from readers.
To this, Meretz MK Michal Rozin said he should “bang on the desks of the local authorities and the state. This is a catastrophe.”
MK Itzik Shuli of the Zionist Union added that “these are not geriatric homes but pens where patients are kept. [The worst ones] should be closed down. There should be supervision, but there is none. It has collapsed and the authorities are not doing their job.”
The government is acting in “a criminal way against the elderly in Israel. This is the real disengagement – a disengagement from the elderly,” United List MK Dov Henin said.
“There is a shortage of 5,000 workers in geriatric homes,” Amsalem said. “Some of those who do work there do shifts of 17 hours.”
Gerontology expert Prof. Yitzhak Brick said that “if intensive work is not carried out by the government, we will be facing a catastrophe – in 2025, the number of the aged will be doubled. But the subject is divided among a number of ministries and is not handled properly.”
MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu), deputy chairman of the subcommittee on the status of the elderly, said that “the large immigration is over. There are no more suckers to work for any amount of money. We must open the skies and give work to foreigners immediately. But there are already caregivers in old age homes that have a lot of compassion, and we have to thank them.”