Ill will?

Because the Construction and Housing Ministry won't provide him with a ground-floor flat, a dialysis patient has been in hospital for more than six months.

wheelchair access 88 224 (photo credit: Illustrative photo by Ariel Jerozolimski)
wheelchair access 88 224
(photo credit: Illustrative photo by Ariel Jerozolimski)
Earlier this week, Esther Yitzhaki received a letter from the Construction and Housing Ministry that almost crushed her. "I thought I was already strong enough, after so many outrageous and stupid answers from the government, but this time these words broke me," she says trying to hide her tears. "But I am not ready to give up, and I never will." The letter was the final rejection in a lengthy application for alternative housing. Her husband Azriel, 61, is diabetic, suffers from a severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has chronic renal failure, for which he needs dialysis three times a week. "Without the dialysis, he would simply die," his doctors told his wife. Nonetheless, he tries to live as normal a life as possible. "I am a religious man," Azriel says. "I can accept trials that come from God. What I cannot accept is the impenetrability and indifference of the clerks and the government. These people don't see human beings behind the facts - they only see rules and numbers." After a long stay in Hadassah-University Hospital, Azriel was transferred to the rehabilitation department at Herzog Memorial Hospital. A few weeks of treatment improved his condition, but the dialysis, he was told, would be needed for the rest of his life. The doctors at Herzog concluded that his general condition didn't justify his staying in the hospital anymore, and decided to send him back home. More than six months later, Azriel is still there, with no sign that he will be returning home to his wife and three sons any time soon. The reason? Azriel and his family live on the third floor of a building without an elevator near the Mahaneh Yehuda market. "The doctors released him, but since we couldn't find any solution to bring him three times a week for dialysis, he had no other choice than to stay in the hospital," explains his wife. The absurdity of the situation is that while the Construction and Housing Ministry refuses to subsidize an apartment for the Yitzhaki family on the ground floor or in a building with an elevator, the Health Ministry continues to pay for his long and unnecessary hospital stay. Esther Samuel, the principal social worker at the rehabilitation department of Herzog Hospital, confirms: "Mr. Yitzhaki was released some six months ago, but he had to stay here because of the stairs problem in his apartment. There was no other solution because without the dialysis, his life is in danger." Since the additional stay at Herzog is not free, Esther says the cost may very well equal the amount needed to transfer the family to a suitable apartment. According to Esther, her discounted contribution to the cost of her husband's stay at Herzog is NIS 57 a day while the remaining NIS 950 a day is covered by the Health Ministry. "The same government that refuses to help us get a suitable flat because according to them we are not poor enough to be eligible, agrees to pay NIS 950 a day for more than six months - and for as long as he lives - in order to keep him in a hospital, using a bed that could be made available for another sick person. I never thought I'd live to see such an absurdity," says Esther. For more than six months, Esther has come every day to Herzog Hospital from work, bringing her husband food and trying desperately to alleviate his emotional pain. "He wants to live, he wants to see his sons growing. Our eldest is going to the army in a few weeks, the youngest will celebrate his bar mitzva very soon," she says. "They see their father only a few hours a week in a hospital surrounding, and I am trying with my meager powers to preserve my family from completely falling apart, but sometimes I feel that even I do not have the strength anymore. "We have knocked on every door - the Health Ministry, the Construction and Housing Ministry, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry - but to no avail," she continues. "The key is in the hands of the Construction and Housing Ministry, but since we are not poor enough and we have a key-money apartment we have no rights." Since theirs is a key-money apartment, if the Yitzhakis live elsewhere, they will lose their rights on it. On the other hand, the Construction and Housing Ministry and the local housing society refuse to consider them for subsidized housing. Furthermore, the solution proposed by the Health Ministry to install an external elevator at its expense in the Yitzhakis' building could not be realized. "I would like to ask the construction and housing minister: Is the State of Israel and its laws punishing us because we worked hard and saved money and it enabled us only to buy with key money? What are they suggesting? That I should stop working, become a burden on society and then gain their support?" she says. A quick glance at the pile of papers and documents she has from her correspondence with various offices and ministries paints a rather frustrating picture. All along, Esther has tried to convince the Construction and Housing Ministry that the two-room flat in which she, her husband and their three sons live is not reason enough to deprive her of state support. "I bought this tiny flat when I was still single," she says. "We always thought that instead of spending money on luxuries, we should put all our means into a good education for our sons. So we managed to live in this little flat, and we do not want to get trapped in loans and mortgage payments - especially now that I am the only one who can work, and as an aide in an old-age home I do not earn a sizeable income. "We have been told more than once that if we were needy, unemployed and living at the taxpayers' expense, we probably would have already received a suitable flat for my husband's condition," says Esther, no longer able to hold back her tears. "But what can I say? Both my husband and I have always believed, and this our legacy to our children, that people should work and not live as parasites. But we never thought that we would be abandoned in such a terrible situation." The Ministry of Construction and Housing could not be reached for a response by press time. In 2005, Esther received a letter from the Construction and Housing Ministry telling her that "since you are the owners of a key-money apartment, you are not entitled to a [welfare] flat due to your husband's condition. You may write again to the committee after a year." One month ago, the Yitzhakis submitted another request to the ministry with the support of the Health Ministry. Last week, Esther was informed by a Health Ministry representative that the response was negative. "There is no chance the Yitzhaki family will ever obtain what they are requesting," a letter from the Health Ministry read.