IMA asks High Court to force Health Ministry to protect doctors

Move follows the screwdriver attack by a Kaplan Medical Center patient on his doctor and and many less-serious incidents.

doctor 88 (photo credit: )
doctor 88
(photo credit: )
Following the screwdriver attack by a Kaplan Medical Center patient on his doctor, and many less-serious incidents, the Israel Medical Association (IMA) appealed Wednesday to the High Court of Justice to force the Health Ministry to formulate an emergency plan for halting violence against medical staffers. The IMA, chaired by Dr. Yoram Blachar, declared in its legal brief that the ministry hadn't even implemented steps against violence that the ministry itself had formulated a few years ago based on a committee's recommendations and directives issued by the ministry director-general between 2000 and 2004. These recommendations and directives included posting police in hospitals; holding courses for staffers of emergency medicine departments and other departments where friction with patients and family members is common; providing monitoring and alarm equipment; and supplying emergency beepers, closed-circuit TV and communications systems between department security personnel and a central control. But all of this costs money, and little has been put into practice. The attack on Kaplan deputy urology department chief Dr. Marius Gai by an elderly patient was the last straw. Gai, whose condition has improved since the attack a few weeks ago, was recently admitted to the rehabilitation department at Sheba Medical Center after undergoing neurosurgery on his spine, but it is unknown whether his hand will be permanently paralyzed. The IMA's lawyer told the High Court that the state was obligated to ensure the safety of medical staffers and protect them from violence on the job. The doctors demanded that the ministry formulate and apply "within 30 days" an emergency program to halt violence in hospitals and clinics and to implement the ministry director-general's directives immediately. Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri - who voted last year against a private member's bill that would set a mandatory six-month jail term for those who physically attacked medical staffers, and was intentionally absent last week from a repeat vote on the bill in its preliminary reading - issued a statement on Wednesday. "The solution to halting violence in general and against medical staffers in particular lies in quick and uncompromising action by law enforcement officials. We have no intention of assigning a policeman to every doctor, because we can't, and because it would disrupt the intimate relationship between doctor and patient," Ben-Yizri said. He added through his personal spokesman that he "rejects with dismay all of the IMA's attempts to put the blame on the Health Ministry," which, he said, was concerned about doctors' welfare. He added that this was not just the IMA's department. "We will continue to do what we can to ensure their safety, with the IMA or without it," the spokesman said. Meanwhile, Kaplan Medical Center said Gai had successful surgery Tuesday on his right arm to repair a ligament damaged in the attack. His left arm and left leg have shown some sensory ability, and Gai has also moved them slightly. His treatment now will require long rehabilitation, but the hospital spokesman said that colleagues and management, who visit him regularly at Sheba (which has the neurosurgery department that Kaplan lacks), hope for the day when Gai will return to work in his department and resume urological surgery. Hundreds of calls and gifts from Gai's patients have been received at Kaplan.