Mental health service transfer to HMOs still being stymied

High Court gives state six weeks to explain why it has not yet handed psychiatric services to the four HMOs.

Yaacov Litzman 260 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yaacov Litzman 260
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The state, on behalf of the Health Ministry, has been instructed by the High Court of Justice to explain within six weeks why it has not yet transferred responsibility for psychiatric services from the ministry to the four public health funds.
The proposed reform goes back to 1997, and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman changed his previous position to favor it in the spring of 2010.
The case was brought to the court by voluntary organizations Bizchut and Otzma, which demanded immediate implementation of the reform, but the justices did not favor this. The ministry said it “is seriously considering the reform but has not yet decided.”
The lack of adequate public facilities in the community, manpower and funding for treating psychiatric patients and rehabilitating them causes their progress to lag behind and suffer, the organizations said.
The Supreme Court issued an order in 2005 for the ministry to carry out the reform.
Litzman, who had been opposed to transferring responsibility to the health funds when he was Knesset Finance Committee chairman, changed his position some 19 months ago. But no progress has been made on the ground.
Some 250,000 patients, the organizations said, demand change now. NIS 400 million to NIS 500m. needs to be added to the budget to implement the reform, and the Treasury has not yet agreed to allocate it.
The organizations also blamed MK Haim Katz, chairman of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Heath Committee, and Litzman for the delays. Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich has also opposed the reform, saying it was “dangerous privatization,” even though most mental health professionals – except a group of psychologists – are in favor.
The Health Ministry said it was “investing great efforts in advancing the reform,” which is “very important and sensitive.” Litzman will work to implement it “by legislation, which we have started, or by other means.” The ministry failed to comment on reports that it will carry out the reform through regulations instead of legislation.
Litzman said at the 2010 Dead Sea Conference: “It is no secret that previously I opposed it strongly. I won’t hide it. I still have doubts. But what has existed so far is not good.”