Ombudsman gets record number of complaints in 2008

A woman who worked as a member of the support staff of the Tirat Hacarmel Mental Health Center was fired 18 months after filing a complaint against a male nurse for allegedly abusing a patient, according to information released by the Ombudsman's Office Wednesday. The woman's story was part of the office's annual report, which in 2008 received the highest number of complaints ever filed by the public. The woman asked the ombudsman, Micha Lindenstrauss, for protection, claiming she had been dismissed because of her complaint. She said that up until then, she had received favorable reports from management about her work. After that, her personal file began to fill up with complaints. The hospital management confirmed that the assessments of her work were good at first but that even before she lodged her complaint, the head nurse and her deputy had begun to complain that she was interfering in affairs that were not hers. In January 2007, three months after the woman reported the abuse, staff members at the health center began to complain about her work. She was fired in April 2008. The ombudsman's investigation revealed that the woman was a devoted worker, warm and caring. He also found that management had come to the decision to fire her within three months of the complaint, but could not do so because she went on maternity leave. He also found that the male nurse whom she had complained about had been suspected in the past of committing criminal acts against patients. The ombudsman told the Health Ministry to reinstate the woman, give her a new job and return all the benefits she would have accrued during the period she was fired. The woman's dismissal was one of 10,571 complaints that reached the Ombudsman's Office in 2008, an increase of 8.4 percent over the previous year. Between 2003 and 2008, the number of complaints that have been filed has increased by 72.5%. The Ombudsman's Office deals with complaints from the public against all government ministries, local governments and other public bodies that are scrutinized by the State Comptroller. The National Insurance Institute received 986 complaints, the highest number recorded and almost 10 percent of all complaints lodged in 2008. Of these, almost 25 percent were found to be justified. The subjects of the complaints included insurance payments, failure to pay workers' accident insurance, work procedures of the medical committees, poor service and failure to respond to letters. Second in the list was the police. A total of 584 complaints were lodged and some 35% found to be justified. The complaints included police handling of complaints, closure of investigations, traffic fines, police conduct and failure to respond to public requests.