Knesset forces first responders’ dispute into arbitration

The Magen David Adom/United Hatzalah imbroglio may soon reach an end.

Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah, arrives onstage on an ambucycle at the AIPAC conference in Washington (photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah, arrives onstage on an ambucycle at the AIPAC conference in Washington
(photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
Following heated accusations in a Knesset committee on Monday by Magen David Adom that its voluntary “competitor” United Hatzalah (UH) is “trying to swallow it up,” the panel decided that both would deliberate under Health Ministry supervision to reach a binding agreement.
The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee discussed the imbroglio that has lasted for years. MDA charges for all its ambulance and first-aid services, while UH – with some 3,000 emergency medical personnel on scooters called “ambucycles” – does not.
The committee decided that if the two organizations are unable to make peace and work together under ministry arbitration, a private member’s bill covering their cooperation would be submitted to the Knesset. Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has previous held a number of meetings with both sides and even had them sign agreements, but these did not hold.
MDA director Eli Bin argued that UH refuses to use its smartphone application for transmitting information on the whereabouts and condition of the injured and sick who need help. He said his organization insists on one app so that sensitive information not “leak” to others. UH, he charged, built its own app as a strategy to destroy MDA.”
But UH founder and president Eli Beer argued that MDA refuses to share information with it, “even endangering life” as a result, and that its own application is “much more advanced” than MDA’s.
Beer added: “MDA wants to maintain its monopoly on saving lives and control all of our volunteers. That is why they are asking for us to hand over a list of all of our volunteers. It is much to my chagrin that this is costing people their lives.”
United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev said: “It is imperative that there be harmonious cooperation between these two organizations.” MK Michael Malkieli (Shas) added: “The two organizations need to sit in the same room and stay there until white smoke rises from the skylight and the issues regarding the sharing of information are settled once and for all.”
UTJ MK Moshe Gafni agreed, saying “This saga has got to end. I wanted to create a unified dispatch and command center, but MDA staunchly refused. They were the only ones to do so. If I were Eli Bin, I would embrace United Hatzalah. This situation, in which MDA closes itself off and is entrenched in its attitude cannot be allowed to continue.”
Yaakov Agabba from Or Yehuda told the committee that his father died from a heart attack after having waited a long time for the MDA ambulance to arrive. “You are playing around with people’s lives,” he shouted. “There is no possible way that you can understand the pain I feel. I only wanted my father to be saved. I don’t care who saved him, just that he would be saved.”
Rotem Mizrachi from Holon had a similar story. She said her father died “when an ambulance took a long time to arrive and UH was never notified of the incident. I’m a Magen David Adom orphan.
Due to the games that MDA has been playing and their egoistic attitude, my father died. He lived 28 feet from an MDA ambulance station in Jerusalem, but that didn’t help him at all.”