'Arrangements Bill would be major blow to health services'

Medical association: Treasury has intentionally misled public and not told truth in their arguments on which bill is based.

child doctor 248.88 courteys (photo credit: Courtesy)
child doctor 248.88 courteys
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Medical Association (IMA) will protest and even take legal action against Treasury officials if the Arrangements Law accompanying the budget bill - with many proposals targeting the health system - is passed. An emergency meeting of health system and IMA leaders was held on Wednesday at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer to discuss the issues. The IMA charged that Finance Ministry budget division officials have "intentionally misled the public and not told the truth in their arguments on which they have based the Arrangements Bill." The association argues that the Treasury's resuscitated plan to establish a fifth health fund - but a for-profit one - would increase the lack of equity in health services that the National Health Insurance Law was passed in 1994 to promote equity for the economically disadvantaged and the sick. The IMA charged that a for-profit health insurer would benefit the rich and healthy and drain them out of the four public health funds, thereby harming those funds. Treasury officials also want to transfer responsibility for treating road accident victims from the hospitals to the health funds, forcing the victims to run around to get authorizations before they can get treatment. The bill would also take responsibility for training hospital interns from the IMA's Scientific Council and give it to Finance Ministry bureaucrats, the IMA said. Their judgements would be based on saving money and reduce the level of Israeli medicine, the association charged. "After destroying the educational system, it wants to destroy the medical system as well, even though it is considered among the best in the world," said an IMA spokesman. According to the IMA, the Arrangements Bill would give the Treasury the power to appoint non-physicians to be directors-general of public hospitals and chairmen of hospital units and departments. This would lead to "political appointments" not based on medical considerations, an IMA spokesman said. An Arrangements Bill proposal to enact Value Added Tax on fresh produce has already been attacked by the Israel Cancer Association for threatening to raise the prevalence of cancer, which is minimized by the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Dr. Yitzhak Zaides, the deputy director of Sheba Medical Center, called on doctors to fight the Treasury's would-be edicts which would weaken the medical profession and prevent it from fighting for the health system. Prof. Elisha Bartoov, chairman of the State Doctors' Union, said the Treasury has for years aimed at cutting health expenditures, increasing the use of private medicine at the expense of public facilities and reducing doctors' influence and autonomy.