The Health and Finance ministries’ program to shorten queues for patients waiting for procedures in public hospital and health fund clinics has been launched.The aim of the program is to strengthen the public health system while reducing unnecessary use of private medical facilities.Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said last week that they were determined to reduce red tape and increase egalitarianism in the receipt of healthcare.The four public health funds received NIS 280 million from the Treasury to carry out more elective (non-emergency) operations by increasing staff, incentives and the number of shifts. By making such surgeries and consultations more accessible, fewer people will use their private and supplementary health insurance policies (through the four health funds) and their own wallets for undergoing such procedures in private medical institutions, Litzman and Kahlon said. The health funds also bought more equipment and computers to improve accessibility.Those public health insurers that shorten their queues will get bonuses. The ministries said the queues will be shortened already before the end of 2016, with the process due to be intensified in 2017. The public hospitals will thus become more competitive with the private hospitals and clinics, whose main advantage has been speedy treatment.The ministries said they will set aside NIS 780m. for this purpose in 2017.There has been a steady erosion in the use of public medical institutions in recent years, as private ones – often staffed by doctors from public hospitals working after hours – took advantage of long waits for public treatment. This led to a significant increase in out-of-pocket payments and individual health expenditures.