By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Finance Minister Ehud Olmert promised heads of the Israel Cancer Association on Tuesday that he would transfer NIS 200 million before the end of this year to expand the basket of health services. The ICA heads had pleaded with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to ensure the transfer of NIS 350 million - the figure allocated last year - to add lifesaving drugs to the basket supplied patients by their health funds.
Meanwhile, the public committee appointed by the Health Ministry to recommend priorities for expanding next year's basket - which has always begun meeting by November - will finally hold its first session on Wednesday in Tel Aviv. The committee chairman, Prof. Boleslav Goldman (director-general of Sheba Medical Center) said it had been impractical to convene as a plenum until now because no money was allocated because the state budget for 2006 has not yet been approved.
In his meeting with ICA president Prof. Eliezer Robinson, Olmert said that even before the state budget is approved, he would make sure that NIS 200 million is allocated to expand the basket. As for the remainder, he said he would "study the matter seriously" and would give the same consideration to the ICA's request for urgent funding to update and expand highly inadequate cancer radiotherapy equipment and manpower.