BGU challenges choice of Hebrew U. for army medical school

'Post' learns letters of protest were sent to Barak, Lindenstrauss, IDF, Hebrew University.

Hebrew University 88 (photo credit: )
Hebrew University 88
(photo credit: )
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is challenging the Defense Ministry's recent choice of Jerusalem's Hebrew University to establish and run the country's first military medical school, The Jerusalem Post has learned. BGU's letters of protest, claiming irregularities in the tender process, were sent not only to Defense Minister Ehud Barak a week ago, but also to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, the IDF and the Hebrew University. BGU, which claims to have proposed the idea of the unique school years before the ministry and the IDF thought of it, charges that "undue pressure" was put on the ministry, and specifically Barak, by the Jerusalem Municipality, the Hebrew University and the Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization, which is a partner in the HU medical school. It also claims that HU ignored or omitted prerequisites in its tender bid and did not meet some of the requirements. BGU received the same or higher number of points in most of the categories under consideration, the Beersheba university claimed. Such a tender, it declared, "was a farce," as HU was given an "unfair advantage" and its bid "should have been rejected" by the tender board. BGU's lawyers, S. Friedman & Co, said that it had demanded to see documents from HU's bid, but what it was sent by the ministry included "erasures and missing passages." The Defense Ministry decided to issue the tender after years of discussions with the IDF, which has a severe shortage of physicians. As a result, the level of care to soldiers has dropped, the IDF has admitted. A military medical school will offer the same courses as a regular Israeli medical school, plus special ones to promote leadership and the study of subjects that are relevant to battlefield conditions and diseases. Its admissions policy will be slightly different than those in the civilian medical schools. BGU president Prof. Rivka Carmi, a former dean of BGU's Faculty of Health Services, said BGU would not make a profit if it were to be chosen to run the military medical school. "We bid NIS 32 million, and Hebrew University NIS 28 million. "We would not have lost money on it, but we would not have profited from it either," she said. Carmi added that when BGU first raised the idea, "the Hebrew University was opposed to it. Suddenly, it wanted it." Carmi added that "many aspects of quality that we offered weren't even considered. BGU should have been given a fair chance. We could have gotten the Beersheba Municipality or members of our board of governors to lobby for it, but we never even considered that option." "BGU continues to want it very much," said Carmi, a geneticist and pediatrician. "It is not too late if the Defense Ministry changes its mind. We can launch the first military medical school class in October." The BGU president said that if it is not satisfied by answers from the ministry, "we may take our case to court." Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said that "the Hebrew University of Jerusalem won the tender. In the coming days, the legal adviser to the defense system will send a detailed answer to Ben-Gurion University" on why it was not chosen. Hadassah Medical Organization deputy director-general Prof. Shmuel Shapira - who has been appointed the future dean of the military medical school and who was in charge of the tender application - rejected BGU's complaints. "HU is the first and most veteran medical school in the country and has had many ties with the IDF Medical Corps since 1948," he said. "It has long had fruitful research connections with leading academic institutions around the world and advanced military research bodies." Shapira added that the Hebrew University is ranked 65th among thousands of the world's universities compared to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Tel Aviv University, which rank between the 101st and 150th. BGU is ranked between 301 and 400, he said. The HU "prepared very carefully" for the ministry tender by consulting with all its relevant experts in academic subjects, budgets and administration. Together with the Hadassah-University Medical Centers to which its medical school is affiliated, said Shapira, the superior education of a generation of military physicians will be possible. Meanwhile, a senior HU source who declined to be quote added that BGU was very disappointed because they "were very sure they would win. They took the loss so badly and irrationally. When you bid for a tender, you take into consideration the possibility that you could lose. BGU has proven to be a bad sport. "Our lobbying work was minimal and at an acceptable level. We were chosen on the basis of superior quality, quantity and meeting rigid qualifications. BGU's claims are completely false."