A Danel representative at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital.
A Danel representative at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital.
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Clad in white nurse's uniforms, representatives of the Danel private nursing agency circulate through the wards of Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital and try to persuade patients to sign up for the company's services. The sales representatives hand out pamphlets, focusing their attention on the old and the lonely and asking them for personal information they will hand on to fellow workers who will come later to close the deal.

The company's marketing strategy is fully authorized by the hospital as part of a tender awarded to Danel two years ago. An Ichilov official said Danel does not pay the hospital for the agreement, which gives the agency's representatives the exclusive right to roam the wards as well as guaranteeing and regulating Danel's services to customers.

Although the uniforms bear the Danel logo and the representatives must tell patients they are company employees, many of the sick and elderly patients seem not to understand that they are being offered services by a commercial firm.

A Facebook status update complaining about the arrangements has been shared by thousands of users since Monday, when it was first posted. "Smadar has a really nice job," wrote Liron Pinhasi, "she arrives at the hospital to sell nursing services to the patients. She has a list of everyone who can't go home and will need close watching: cancer patients, people left paralyzed by strokes, etc. How come Smadar has such a precise list?" Pinhasi asked, adding, "Some of you must have noticed that Smadar has a unique uniform. As a matter of fact before you notice the logo you might believe she's a nurse, just as I did when I first saw her. Whoever sent her to the hospital in such a uniform had a precise purpose: To cause the patients and their families to believe that she's a figure of authority, part of the hospital staff ... does it work? Unfortunately, after seeing her in action I can say, and how." A spokesman for Ichilov said the hospital and its employees does not give Danel medical information about patients.

Danel's director of marketing said: "Company representatives do not sell the services to helpless patients, but rather to their families and to patients who are capable of speaking and of understanding."

On her Facebook page Pinhasi related the story of a Danel sales representative who approached a patient with mental disabilities and tried to persuade him to sign a contract. A spokesman for Danel told Haaretz that a company representative had indeed approached a patient with cognitive disabilities but immediately afterward approached the patient's family to explain the proposed agreement.

In a response, the Health Ministry acknowledged that by issuing a tender Ichilov had complied with regulations but also added that there was a need to be wary of aggressive marketing measures and promised to "contact hospitals and advise them to ensure that such measures are not used by the companies, and, if needed, to issue new guidelines."