Ronni Gamzu: Medical tourism in hospitals to be limited

In face of lack of funds for hospitals, directors argue treating foreigners adds to their income and helps cover costs of treating Israelis as well.

RonniGamzu311 (photo credit: Sourasky Medical Center)
(photo credit: Sourasky Medical Center)
A document proposing that the state supervise medical tourism by foreigners and limit the number of patients from abroad so as not to harm Israelis has been distributed for comment among relevant parties by the Health Ministry.
Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu wrote that clear criteria will be set in hospitals and other medical facilities that want to treat foreign tourists in public medical facilities. The hospitals, he continued, will be given instructions on how to balance the advantages of medical tourism with the prevention of harm to Israeli hospital patients.
It was announced on Tuesday that he appointed a committee to make recommendations on the issue.
Public hospital directors regard medical tourism as a boon because foreigners are charged more than the health funds pay for their members’ hospitalization. In the face of inadequate public funding of the hospitals’ infrastructure and other costs, treating foreigners add to their income and help cover costs of treating Israelis as well, the hospital directors argue.
But some claim that not only do foreigners get more comfortable “hotel services” such as better food and private rooms, but they are treated at the expense of Israelis who do not pay. Gamzu said that Israelis “must have first priority” in treatment and that a medical director for medical tourism will be appointed in each medical center who will ensure that locals get the care they are entitled to. The share of medical tourist treatment in Israeli hospitals will be limited, Gamzu continued, to 5 percent.
Extra funding will be channeled into improving the care of Israeli patients by improving infrastructure and reducing queues for their treatment. Gamzu also demanded that hospital care in the periphery be improved with investment of medical tourism income.
Hospitals will not be allowed to go into deficit on medical tourism services; they must send a special report on their activities that will be prepared by an accountant.