3rd private firm in 4 years nixed as school health provider

Health Ministry decides not to continue to provide school health services through Natali company five months after it signed a contract with the group.

Litzman 311 (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
Litzman 311
The Health Ministry has decided not to continue to provide school health services – including vaccinations, eye examinations and health counseling – through the private Natali company five months after it signed a contract with the group, which from September 2010 has provided rescue services for heart patient subscribers.
The company will cease this contractual work in June 2012, with the end of the school year.
The ministry announced this to the High Court of Justice on Thursday during a hearing in which another private company protested against the awarding of a contract to Natali to provide health services to 1.5 million schoolchildren. Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said that he would like to de-privatize the school health service, but that this could not be done without approval of the Treasury, which was the authority that pushed for privatization.
Natali was the third private company contracted by the ministry since the school health service was privatized in 2007 at the initiative of the Finance Ministry and the agreement of the Health Ministry; the first contractor was the for-profit Association for Public Health, while the second was Magen David Adom. Those contracts were also abruptly canceled.
The Treasury claimed that privatization would improve services and save NIS 7 million a year, but in fact, it cost more. The State Comptroller castigated the privatization in one of his reports, saying services were abysmal and that the nurses and doctors having little time to do more than vaccinate, and even those services were not done on time or properly.
The Local Authorities Center called on the Health Ministry on Thursday to halt all deals with Natali and restore public responsibility for crucial school health services, which until 2006 involved state-employed school nurses who gave shots, performed health checks and educated children informally about hygiene, smoking, alcohol, sex and eating disorders.
Opponents of privatization maintained that each private nurse had to conduct 60 eye examinations and vaccinations a day and could not perform them properly.
Without a school nurse on the premises, children who were injured or ill were sent home or an ambulance was called.