Psychiatric hostel to close after reports of abuse

Health Ministry denies it inadequately supervised private hostels for the mentally ill such as Petah Tikva’s Neveh Yaakov.

Mental health inmate rests in bed [illustrative] 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jianan Yu)
Mental health inmate rests in bed [illustrative] 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jianan Yu)
Despite widespread criticism following Wednesday’s arrest of 70 personnel at Petah Tikva’s Neveh Yaakov private mental health institute for suspected abuse, the Health Ministry denied any claims that it has been inadequately supervising operations of private hostels for the mentally ill.
On Thursday, the ministry said that it had held a number of “surprise visits” at the psychiatric facility “that showed everything is OK; we didn’t succeed in using ordinary means at our disposal to investigate complaints.”
The ministry added that it seemed there was a “cover-up resulting from many reasons, partly by the patients themselves.”
The arrests on Wednesday resulted in an investigation of complaints by family members and others of alleged sexual and physical abuse of adult patients, who range in age from 20 to 70.
The ministry said that it decided to complain to the police at the end of 2011 to deepen the investigation. It added that before it notified the authorities, family members had filed complaints, but the police documents were closed “due to inadequate evidence” of abuse.
It added that “in light of the findings of the investigation, we are about to implement an ‘alternate plan to close the institution and provide other places’ for hospitalization of the patients.” Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who warned about the Neveh Yaakov institution in May of last year, said the Health Ministry “was late in taking action and left the helpless patients exposed to abuse and violence.”
“The time has come to transfer care of psychiatric patients from entrepreneurs and other private contractors back to the state. This affair is the result of the drying up of funds and sped-up privatization in psychiatric institutions. This neglected field must be put in professional, skilled hands,” he said.
As for the ministry’s decision to close down the hostel, Gilon said, “Better late than never, but at this stage, alternate solutions for 155 patients are needed immediately.”
Meanwhile, AKIM (the Association for the Rehabilitation of the Intellectually Disabled) called on the government to significantly increase its supervision of those with mental disabilities.
AKIM expressed its shock at the criminal acts allegedly perpetrated against the patients, especially at the hands of the people responsible for caring for them.
The non-profit not only works to protect the rights of the mentally disabled but also operates hostels and small sheltered homes for them.
When patients are cared for in small groups, it said, they receive much better personal treatment. It called for expanding the integration of the mentally ill into society.
Another voluntary organization, Lishma, said it was shocked by the Neveh Yaakov affair and suggested that this was “just the tip of the iceberg” of abuse against the weak and troubled. It noted that the number of Health Ministry inspectors of psychiatric facilities is “very small, and they have little authority and work without transparency.”
“The per-diem payment for psychiatric patients is tiny compared to the per-diem in general hospitals,” the organization said, noting that as a result good care is not facilitated in many private institutions.
Health Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu issued on Thursday a circular to relevant officials saying that caregivers and others must report to the police or a social worker any suspicion of abuse of minors or other helpless people, while at the same time protecting medical privacy even though the patient may object to the reporting.