Knesset committee: Stop firing public health service workers

The firing of 700 public health nurses, 40 public health physicians, and nearly 700 other staffers who work in family health (tipat halav) centers and schools has raised the ire of the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee, which on Tuesday demanded that their dismissal be canceled immediately. The committee blamed the Treasury for the dismissals of the public health workers, charging that it aims to "privatize" health promotion and disease prevention services to babies, children and youth. Committee chairman MK Moshe Sharoni of the Gil Party said the Finance Ministry's "obsession to privatize public health services won't save a penny, but it will hurt the excellent service, which has won international praise." The employees no longer work for the Health Ministry but for a non-profit organization called the Association for Public Health Services, set up several years ago to reduce the number of state employees. Sharoni said the dismissals will "immediately lead to anarchy that will cause serious short- and long-term damage to public health." Public health nurses and doctors monitor infants' growth and development, give them vaccinations and administer first aid, teach health promotion in schools and test the vision and posture of pupils. The committee demanded that the workers again become employees of the Health Ministry rather than of the non-profit organization. The committee also called on the Gil Party's Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri to appoint a professional committee with representatives from the Health and Finance ministries and public health experts to determine how public health services can best be provided with a guaranteed budget. The Health Ministry commented that it is doing its best to prevent the dismissals, which have in recent years been threatened almost annually at the end of the school year.