The country’s psychiatric hospitals were called the “neglected backyard of Israeli medicine” in a tense meeting on Tuesday of the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee.Although the MKs and state officials did not agree on everything, it was accepted that many institutions offer inhuman, degrading facilities.MK Rachel Adato, who was a professional physician for three decades, said she had never been so shocked as during recent visits to three mental health centers – Abarbanel in Bat Yam, Kfar Shaul in Jerusalem and Mizra near Acre. The discussion was initiated by MK Eitan Cabel.Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who has delayed the long-awaited psychiatric reform in which the health funds would take over from his ministry the responsibility for mental health treatments – and is believed to be opposed to it – said he recently made a surprise visit to Kfar Shaul and came away shocked. Ministry officials promised to call a contractor immediately to renovate the government psychiatric hospital in the capital’s Givat Shaul neighborhood.Conditions are especially bad for those hospitalized for the long-term and in closed wards, it was said.There is “no lobby for the mentally ill that will sound their cries. The Health and Finance ministries have to make funds available immediately for renovation of the hospitals,” Cabel said.Litzman added that a budget of NIS 700 million was needed to make the necessary renovations in hospitals to improve their “inhuman conditions, which are not suited for animals.” They were so bad at Kfar Shaul that he said he would consider closing it. But he did not intend to close Abarbanel, even though it, too, is in bad condition, because the “Treasury would only be happy” to save money. The committee will hold another session on the issue.Because many patients are being maintained on medications in the community, there are significantly fewer inpatient beds than in the past, 3,451 in 2008 compared to 5,619 a decade ago.The committee members strongly criticized the conditions in psychiatric institutions and called on the Health Ministry to find a solution within a month. They also said the proposed psychiatric reform should not be tied to improving conditions in the institutions, which must be done as soon as possible.