Doctors warn of mental health services 'collapse' if reform implemented

IMA chair: There is no chance health funds will be able to implement reform by January 1.

doctor-patient 88 (photo credit: )
doctor-patient 88
(photo credit: )
There is "no chance" that the four health funds will be ready on January 1 to carry out a planned reform in which the Health Ministry transfers its responsibility for mental health services to the insurers, said Dr. Yoram Blachar, chairman of the Israel Medical Association (IMA), on Monday. Both the IMA and the State Doctors Union (SDU) called on Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri to postpone implementation of the reform "until all professional groups can discuss it and the shortcomings and failures in the plan can be eliminated." The two organizations reiterated this demand, which was voiced at a special emergency meeting of doctors' and patients' organizations a few weeks ago. Today, said Blachar and SDU chairman Dr. Elisha Bartuv, the health funds have the capacity to provide only about a quarter of the mental health services they will need to provide after January 1. About 2.6 million patient visits for psychiatric and psychological care are expected next year, when the health funds today have the infrastructure for only 550,000, they said. If state mental health stations and clinics - which currently handle 750,000 patient visits a year - are closed, there will be no alternatives available in the health funds, the doctors added. The result will be "a collapse" of community-based mental health services, they said. Ben-Yizri has said that even if errors are made in implementing the reform, the process must be launched, and a committee will supervise the process to make mid-course corrections. The aim of the reform is to minimize the stigma of mental health care and treat psychiatric problems like any physical condition. A marathon meeting of Knesset committees and the plenum to discuss the reform will be held on Tuesday.