Ministry claims 'unique' bulletin, but others did it first

Health Ministry officials laud Hebrew booklet on health rights, but NGO Kol Zchut has been providing same information for four years in three languages.

Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman (photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Senior Health Ministry officials have spent “several years” producing a 132- page, comprehensive online booklet in Hebrew on residents’ rights in the health system, according to the ministry, which says the book is “the first of its kind.”
But The Jerusalem Post has revealed that for the last four years, nonprofit organization Kol Zchut has been providing a huge amount of information on many of the same subjects – in Hebrew, Arabic and English – on a regularly updated free Internet portal that often goes beyond the ministry material.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and his director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu extolled the ministry’s booklet, which is due to be published on its website on Wednesday.
Litzman said in a ministry press release that it was the “first publication of its kind meant to assist with information and guidance and to relieve even a little the burden on patients and their families.” He added that it “systematically analyzes rights in accordance with groups” of residents who are automatically entitled to health insurance.
Gamzu added that the booklet, the Hebrew title of which is “Medical Insurance and Health Services for Populations with Special Needs,” had been written “as part of the ministry’s determination to implement the principles of transparency regarding those with [public] health insurance,” making services more accessible to the population and empowering them.
Dr. Tuvia Horev – a dentist and the ministry’s deputy director-general for economics and health insurance – compiled and wrote the booklet “over several years” along with Shoshana Troim- Rafael from his office. The ministry managed to produce the material in Hebrew only, but Horev said he intended to get it translated into Arabic, English and Russian at a later, unknown date.
Although the Kol Zchut multilingual portal has been online for four years, when asked about the organization, Horev said he had “never heard of it.”
Yet Kol Zchut was highlighted in a Jerusalem conference on citizens’ health rights at Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus last June, where Gamzu was a prominent, if brief, speaker. And Horev’s report mentions a section of Kol Zchut’s portal in the bibliography.
A feature article on the conference that appeared on the Post’s Sunday Health Page on June 10, 2012, gave detailed information on Kol Zchut and reported Gamzu’s speech, in which he said his ministry wanted to provide more reliable information on health services.
But the Post learned on Tuesday that a year ago, the voluntary organization offered to work with the Health Ministry, andGamzu turned it down – even though Kol Zchut already had a great deal of information in the same areas.
Both websites deal with children with special needs, the elderly, the mentally and physically disabled, road accident victims, Holocaust survivors, the chronically ill, soldiers, prisoners and other subjects.
“Although I don’t know of the voluntary organization, I am glad that Kol Zchut provides such material. We worked for years, doing a search of so many sites,” said Horev, adding that “our information is official government material.”
He said his brochure did not cost anything extra, as he and his staff had worked on the project as part of their regular tasks.