MKs demand restoration of health service for school kids

Bill initiated by MKs calls for return of School Health Service to Health Ministry hands, but without budget source for change, bill can not pass.

First grade school children kids class 311 (photo credit: Marc Sellem Israel/The Jerusalem Post)
First grade school children kids class 311
(photo credit: Marc Sellem Israel/The Jerusalem Post)
The Israel Pediatric Association and seven MKs demanded on Tuesday that the Finance Ministry’s initiative some five years ago that privatized the School Health Service be reversed, returning responsibility for the service to the Health Ministry.
The decision had been an “utter failure,” they said.
All schoolchildren had for years been entitled to preventive health checks, guidance by school nurses on not smoking, achieving proper weight and avoiding dangerous sex habits, alcohol and other drugs. But the privatization brought in three companies chosen by public tender that failed to provide even the most basic services to all pupils. Fewer than 80 percent of the children received the immunizations they should have during the current school year, which ends in two weeks.
Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, a gynecologist by profession, told The Jerusalem Post that the state comptroller’s report a few years ago that the School Health Service has been carried out so poorly is enough evidence that the ministry must retake responsibility for the service, but that the Treasury would decide on the issue. The Health Ministry has several times said it was “in favor” of providing the care though its own nurses, but its lack of power is clear.
Last winter, when hospital pediatric departments were collapsing and the infection rate was high, the Israel Pediatric Association called on the privatized service to vaccinate schoolchildren against the flu, but it didn’t. At first, the Association for the Advancement of Public Health failed to carry out its responsibilities; it was replaced by Magen David Adom, which did no better. The current supplier, Nataly, has been told it will no longer be in charge when the next school year starts in September, but no successor has been selected.
Adatto said that the Treasury selects private suppliers by lowering the prices they are paid; as they are not high enough to make a profit, the companies reduce the amount of services, causing them to fail.
A private members’ bill initiated by MKs Haim Katz and Shelly Yacimovich, and co-sponsored by five additional lawmakers, calls for the return of the service to Health Ministry hands. But without a budget source for the change, such a bill could not pass.
Asked if, after the failure of its “experiment” was clear to all public health experts, it would restore the service to the Health Ministry, the Finance Ministry spokesman would only say: “In these days, the cabinet is examining different ways to improve the supply of health services to school pupils.” It did not comment when asked if it supported a cancellation of the privatization.