Three health bills move forward

If the bills are passed in their final readings, they will give all residents the right to choose their own hospitals for treatment of certain conditions.

Hospital 88,248 GENERIC good image (photo credit: )
Hospital 88,248 GENERIC good image
(photo credit: )
Three private member's bills for the improvement of health services were boosted in the Knesset on Wednesday. If the bills are passed in their final readings, they will give all residents the right to choose their own hospitals for treatment of certain conditions; require Health Ministry staffers, rather than non-governmental agencies, to provide health services in schools and family health centers; and protect ministry medication supervisors from prosecution if they prove not to have been negligent. The first bill, approved by the plenum on its preliminary reading, was initiated by MK Arye Eldad (NU/NRP), a maxillofacial and plastic surgeon by profession. It states that health fund members will be entitled to choose their and their children's supplier of hospital services for cardiac surgery, neurosurgery and oncology. At present, the health provider decides where to refer its members according to agreements signed with hospitals, even if the provider is not the best. Eldad noted that there were significant gaps among the quality of services provided in different parts of the country, especially between the Center and the periphery. He added that at this stage, it was impossible to give patients freedom of choice in all medical fields, but that these three life-and-death fields should be the first and that beneficial competition among medical centers would result from passage. The second bill, initiated by MKs Dov Henin (Hadash), Ran Cohen (Meretz) and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), was approved by the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee in its first reading. A total of 63 MKs have already voiced their support. Nearly two years after the Treasury forced the Health Ministry to "farm out" its school health service to a non-governmental organization, there have been many complaints about a decline in services. In addition, there have been efforts to privatize the family health (tipat halav) centers around the country. The bill would reverse the trend of privatization and require Health Ministry professionals to provide these services at high levels, without profit-making as the bottom line. The Health Ministry said it favored the two bills, while the Treasury was opposed. After the indictment of Health Ministry officials and inspectors involved in the Remedia baby formula scandal a few years ago, in which three infants died because the officials did not prevent the import of a German-made formula that lacked an essential vitamin, the Knesset plenum approved on its preliminary reading a bill presented by Eldad and MKs David Tal (Kadima) and Gilad Erdan (Likud) to protect inspectors from charges of negligence if they acted without the intention to harm or out of negligence. As a result of the indictments, inspectors applied sanctions that seriously slowed down the approval of medical imports, causing shortages. The bill would minimize the inspectors' criminal responsibility if they worked according to professional criteria without the intention to cause harm.