Gov’t to help fund a dozen urgent medical care centers

Move meant to minimize unnecessary visits to hospital emergency rooms, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman tells 'Post.'

Litzman 311 (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
Litzman 311
The Health Ministry will encourage the establishment of public and private urgent medical care clinics, open 24/7, in the periphery to minimize unnecessary visits to hospital emergency rooms, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
He spoke during a tour of TEREM’s immediate care clinic in the capital’s Romema neighborhood.
Such facilities have over the years greatly reduced the pressure on hospitals; in the TEREM chain alone, of 18,000 ambulatory patients treated last month, 97 percent did not need further care in emergency rooms, and some of those referred to hospitals did not need inpatient care.
Litzman’s news came as a complete surprise to Dr. Joe Djemal, the director of the private chain of urgent care clinics, and its deputy director-general for operations, Natan Applebaum.
Applebaum’s father, Dr. David Applebaum, who was murdered in a 2003 terrorist attack in a Jerusalem cafe with his daughter Naava, launched Terem in 1989, bringing here the idea of private, reasonably priced and efficient urgent medical care in the community.
Litzman told the Post that public organizations and private companies could compete for tenders to establish such centers in locations at least half-anhour’s drive from the nearest hospitals. The ministry itself would not establish such centers, but it would subsidize a third of the cost, with an equal share paid for by the local authority and the rest from the entrepreneur.
Such clinics would be supervised by the ministry. He added that anyone diagnosed and treated in an urgent care clinic benefits not only from saved time but also from not being exposed to dangerous pathogens in crowded hospital facilities.
The ministry will soon release information for bidders for the clinics, Litzman added.
“We started thinking about having five or six such centers, but now we are interested in 10 or 11 in the periphery around the country,” he said.
They will also be in Arab communities and in Jewish settlements over the Green Line, he said.
The deputy minister said he was very familiar with TEREM, which has an additional immediate care clinic in Jerusalem and others in Beit Shemesh, Modi’in and Ma’aleh Adumim, as he had used its services, as had members of his family.
He praised TEREM’s speedy and knowledgeable treatment and their integrated use of computerization for X-ray, ultrasound and lab tests, online consultation with outside experts, and keeping patients’ personal physicians in the loop.
Severe pressure of people with flu complications and other conditions has overwhelmed hospital emergency rooms and inpatient facilities around the country and induced the Nurses Union to refuse to admit patients who would have to lie on beds in the corridors.
Djemal told the Post that Jerusalem – with its two TEREM clinics – has only 236 hospital emergency room visits per 1,000 residents annually, compared to 456 in Safed, 421 in Beersheba, 391 in Kfar Saba, 338 in Tel Aviv and other cities that may have health fund afterhours clinics but no TEREM clinics.
Djemal added that TEREM intends to open a branch in Karmiel and is considering the establishment of additional immediate care centers in Ashdod and Bnei Brak. Djemal and Applebaum showed interest in the Health Ministry’s project but said it was a surprise and they would have to learn more about it.
Asked about hospital crowding, Litzman said pressure has declined somewhat in the past few days, but more hospital beds, especially in internal medicine and intensive care, were needed.
He said he couldn’t understand why the Israel Medical Association, which has now petitioned the High Court of Justice against the ministry over this issue, did not do so during the past decade, when not a single hospital bed was added, but “is now doing it, when we have reached an agreement with the Treasury for nearly 1,000 additional beds in six years.”