A government initiative to expand medical services to tourists is under attack by a broad alliance of groups claiming that the plan would come at the expense of Israeli residents.

The organizations are calling on the government to invest in improving and reinforcing the infrastructure of Israel's public health system.

The social justice protest's panel of health care experts and the Public Network for Health Equity in Israel, which includes human rights organizations and groups advocating for patients' rights, sent a letter on Wednesday that opposes plans to increase medical tourism.

The letter went to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Health Ministry Director General Roni Gamzu.

"We were surprised to read that, rather than investing in the development of the public health system's infrastructure, the government is promoting another step toward privatizing the system," the organizations said. "Medical tourism is already harming the public health system and the availability of health care services for the country's residents."

A proposal by Litzman allows state-run hospitals to devote as much as 10% to 15% of their resources to medical tourism and up to 25% in any given hospital ward, as well as the establishment of a private hospital for this purpose. That proposal was sent to the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Harel Locker.

"If the health system enjoyed an excess of staff, beds and other medical infrastructure, it might be possible to understand the government's position of seeking to encourage medical tourism to make efficient use of the surplus," the organizations wrote. "But in a situation where infrastructure is lacking, expanding medical tourism could have severe implications on the health system's public character."

The organizations also warn against creating incentives for hospitals for giving profitability priority over essentials. "Medical tourism rates are 30% to 40% above the norm and sometimes 50% more than what the HMOs pay, creating an economic incentive for hospitals to prefer foreign patients over Israeli patients," the groups wrote.