Ministry of Health Addresses Discrimination in Periphery
Following a petition ACRI filed two years ago along with health workers, the Ministry of Health committed to providing an additional 220 rehabilitation beds, most of them in the north and south of the country. This emerged from a response recently submitted by the Ministry to the High Court of Justice.
The petition was filed in September of 2016 in the name of Galia Ganon of Kiryat Gat, whose two children — Shay, who was wounded in Operation Protective Edge, and Doron, who was injured in an accident at the Forum Night Club in Be'er Sheva —required rehabilitative procedures. They were sent to the Sheba Medical Center in the center of the country, as there was no suitable rehabilitation facility in their area of residence. Another petitioner is Elisheva Geva, a resident of the community of Atzmon in Misgav, whose late partner had been hospitalized for rehabilitation at Beit Levinstein Hospital. The Civil Forum for the Advancement of Health in the Galilee joined the petition, along with the Southern Health Forum, Bizchut - the Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities, Physicians for Human Rights, and ACRI.
In the petition, we demanded that the Minister of Health put an end to ongoing discrimination regarding the accessibility and quality of rehabilitation services in the periphery, as opposed to the center of the country, and determine criteria to define reasonable time, distance, and quality of medical rehabilitation services.
According to the plan presented by the Ministry of Health, by 2021, 25% of rehabilitation beds will be situated in the northern and southern districts, rather than the 15% currently in place. However, 32% of Israel's citizens live in these districts, such that in spite of the optimistic goal set by the Ministry of Health, it provides a mere partial solution, and is still not on par with the conditions offered in central areas.
The Ministry of Health has also announced that it intends to establish a binding standard for the first time, which will determine customary conditions for rehabilitation centers, and require health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to formulate a "uniform rehabilitation policy for all its districts." This is due to the fact that the quality of service provided in the periphery is lower than that of the service provided in the center of the country. The ministry effectively rejected the position of some of the HMOs, which claimed that it was justifiable to invest more in the center of the country.
The Ministry of Health's new plan was adopted following the state's response a year and a half ago, which revealed that in the past five years more rehabilitation beds had been added in the center than in the periphery: 81 rehabilitation beds were added in hospitals and rehabilitation institutions in the center, including Tel Aviv, Haifa, and the districts of Jerusalem, while only 62 were provided for districts in the north and the south. In the field of child rehabilitation, there was not a single hospital bed in the north or the south.
Attorney Gil Gan-Mor, Director of ACRI's Social and Economic Rights Unit, said: "This indicates good news and progress. Yet the main means of comparing health services from the periphery and the center is to set clear and enforceable standards of distance, time, and quality, and not to provide solutions solely in response to political pressure or pressure via a petition."