Tel Aviv refugee clinic seeks more volunteer medical staff

More than 300 African refugees who have crossed the Egyptian border to work here have been treated during the last month.

Sudanese refugees 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Sudanese refugees 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
More than 300 African refugees who have crossed the Egyptian border to work here have been treated during the last month at a new medical clinic in Tel Aviv's central bus station, opened by the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and the Health Ministry. Ministry deputy director-general Dr. Chezy Levy, who is in charge of the medical administration, said the clinic provides primary medical care to those who are here illegally and therefore have no access to the hospitals and clinics open to Israeli residents. The clinic functions on donations and volunteer doctors. In addition to treating injuries and chronic disease, it also deals with infectious diseases that could spread to the general population. IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar said that the clinic may eventually expand its services to include more specialties and treatment of more complicated conditions. A number of pharmaceutical companies provide medications free, through prescriptions dispensed at SuperPharm branches. He added that the voluntary clinic plans to treat refugees only until there is legislation passed to cover them via the National Health Insurance Law. Blachar said it was the state's obligation to do so. Dr. Michael Dor, head of the ministry's general medicine branch, called on additional nurses and doctors to volunteer one day a month at the special clinic. Dr. Shai Pintov, a pediatrician who volunteers there, said it was "amazing" to see the refugees' need for medical care. An example was one man with hypertension and diabetes who was jailed for four months and then fled immigration authorities, going with no medical treatment for the duration. Ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev said the clinic observes privacy laws and does not release any information on patients to the state immigration authorities or anyone else. The chairman of the Health Consumers Organization (ZVI), Meidad Gissin, said that even though the first priority for health services should be given to Israeli residents, he hoped health coverage could be supplied to the arrivals, and congratulated the IMA and the ministry for its initiative. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel commented that while they welcomed the establishment of a clinic for refugees, "the Health Ministry is taking the easy way out by using volunteers to distract attention from the fact that it is not filling its responsibility to find a solution in the health system." It said that its own clinic for illegal residents and others who lack health insurance was not subsidized by the ministry, and that no such clinic could provide hospitalization services. "The ministry refuses to do this by claiming it needs a separate budget from the Treasury," PHR-Israel said.