School health services provider replaced

Critical comptroller report says company doing a poor job in supplying services, including vaccinations and health checkups.

The company chosen by the Health Ministry three years ago, without a public tender, to supply school health services around the country has been replaced by Natali-Seculife, the private cardiac ambulance and telemedicine service.
The Association for Public Health had been severely criticized by the state comptroller for doing a poor job in supplying services in the schools, including vaccinations and health checkups.
The ministry said on Wednesday that it had chosen Natali-Seculife to service 4,000 schools for three years, with an option for an extension. It added that when it wrote the public tender, senior ministry management had put a great deal of stress on “the provision of high-quality services to schoolchildren.”
Before the ministry chose the for-profit Association for Public Health – headed by a former ministry official – school health services had been provided for decades by government-employed public health nurses. Nearly every institution had its own school nurse, and that professional not only gave vaccinations and conducted hearing, vision, growth and posture checkups, but also provided counseling on following a healthful lifestyle and avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs and engaging in risky sexual behavior.
Over the years, however, the Treasury cut expenditures for the school nurse system, leaving one nurse per several institutions until, under the privatization, nurses came in mainly just to vaccinate the pupils. The Finance Ministry’s budgets department, pointing to reduced services, maintained that a private company would do a “better job.”
The Health Ministry was unable to reverse the situation, even though the state comptroller had documented the private company’s failures and criticized the ministry for choosing it without issuing a public tender. Even basic vaccinations were not provided to all children in time, the comptroller declared in one of his reports. The National Council for the Child also expressed its outrage over the privatization.
According to the Health Ministry, Natali-Seculife will give shots,weigh pupils and test hearing and growth and other factors. Thecontract is worth NIS 80 million annually.
“We are certain that this choice will help raise the quality of health services given to school children,” the ministry said.
The Association for Public Health claimed on Wednesday that theservices it had given during the past three years had been “muchbetter” than that provided publicly by the ministry itself in previousyears. It said the new tender would cost the taxpayers “NIS 22m. more”than what the association had proposed as the charge for its services,had it continued.
The association said it expected that as a result of the choice, the“quality of health of schoolchildren will continue to decline.”
It added that it expected to appeal the decision in court because “the tender was influenced by external considerations.”