Tel Aviv clinic for refugees and illegals reopens

PHR-Israel congratulates Medical Association for getting involved in struggle to reopen center.

The voluntary Tel Aviv medical clinic for illegal workers and refugees that was closed in March by the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel will reopen on Sunday as an Israel Medical Association clinic. PHR-Israel concluded it had "used up its ability to put pressure on the Health Ministry to take responsibility for the health" of non-Israelis. PHR-Israel said when closing the clinic after 10 years and referring the desperately ill to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center's emergency room, that it could not handle the volume of patients, whose numbers increased 70 percent in the past year. The ministry said people without Israeli residency were not covered by the National Health Insurance Law and that they (or their employers) must purchase private medical insurance coverage. A special medical insurance law provides state health care to children of illegal foreigners so they can get vaccinations and treatment, and the ministry helps in unusual cases when illegal residents suffering from serious diseases have no insurance and can't afford to pay for care, but not on a regular basis. "Our clinic will not be an excuse for the state not taking responsibility for them," PHR-Israel said then. But on Wednesday, it congratulated the Medical Association for getting involved. "Our decision to close our clinic was very difficult for us, but we can say that it proved itself by raising the health problems of refugees in the awareness of the public," said Dr. Danny Pillak, PHR-Israel's chairman. "The Health Ministry prepared a plan to provide health services to refugees and those without residential status, but so far it has not implemented it." MKs Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) and Ran Cohen (Meretz) have presented a private member's bill to grant health coverage to refugees. As the reopened clinic cannot handle unlimited numbers, if the number of patients exceeds capacity, PHR-Israel will refer the excess to the IMA clinic and the hospital emergency room. "Only the passage of a law that will include them in the National Health Insurance Law can provide a comprehensive and suitable solution to their needs," said PHR-Israel.