Health Ministry writes bill for medical costs of war

While there was much criticism of how the Israel Defense Forces command functioned during the war, the medical system proved itself to be very well oiled.

ambulance arrives 298 (photo credit: Channel 10)
ambulance arrives 298
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The Health Ministry is seeking NIS 120 million from the Treasury to cover the extra costs of hospitals and other medical facilities during the war in Lebanon. But an additional NIS 40m. is needed for immediate readiness, plus tens of millions of dollars to build underground emergency rooms and operating theaters and some NIS 20m. for emotional trauma centers in the North. This is the bill being contemplated by Health Ministry director-general Prof. Avi Yisraeli, who, with his staff, has begun to calculate the past and future financial costs to the health system of the war and present them to the usually pinch-penny Finance Ministry. "They will have to look at the dangers and set priorities and then find the money for them," Yisraeli told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The director-general is due on Tuesday to present some of these details to the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee, which will convene to discuss the functioning of the medical system during the war. Yisraeli disclosed that he plans to model a network of five emotional trauma centers on Metiv, the walk-in center established several years ago in Jerusalem by Herzog Hospital and the New York Jewish Federation. Some of the thousands of residents of the North who suffered from anxiety attacks during and after the attacks by 4,000 Hizbullah rockets are already being monitored to prevent or treat post-traumatic stress syndrome. The ministry director-general noted that never before has the civilian population been so massively exposed to the danger of rocket attacks, and that the resultant trauma must be treated. Northern hospitals not only had to lay out millions of shekels each to treat victims of the attacks, but they also suffered lost income for procedures they were unable to carry out. Magen David Adom must also be paid for its expenses for rescuing and evacuating victims. Initial protection of hospital facilities from rocket attacks has been and is being carried out, and oxygen and suction lines and other infrastructure must be built underground. But the government must decide whether full-fledged underground emergency and surgical facilities will be constructed in the event of a similar war in the future. Building subterranean emergency rooms and surgical suites at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center alone would cost $10m. and take two years, Yisraeli said, and other hospitals are demanding the same. While there was much criticism of how the Israel Defense Forces command functioned during the war, the medical system proved itself to be very well oiled, and court orders were not needed to keep vital staffers on the job despite the danger to which they were exposed. "There were a few problems on the sidelines, but all in all, it functioned very well," said Yisraeli.