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The chief child psychologist at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, was ousted as head of the hospital's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit this week, and colleagues attributed it to her opposition to changes in mental-health procedures soon to come under Knesset review.

Hospital officials maintain that Dr. Lily Rothschild, who will remain the hospital's chief child psychologist, left the clinic solely for personal reasons.

Knesset hearings will begin tomorrow to discuss the proposed changes, which would transfer responsibility for public mental-health services from the Health Ministry to the four health maintenance organizations, a move that would raise demand for psychological services that are today only partially covered by HMOs.

The Health Ministry threw its support behind the move earlier this week.

Rothschild declined to comment yesterday, but the Health Ministry issued a statement saying: "Baseless and malicious rumors are circulating among a handful of opponents of reform. The Health Ministry is considering conducting a comprehensive review should these developments continue."

Psychology residents at the hospital recently contacted the Health Ministry's chief psychologist, Yemima Goldberg, and its comptroller, Aryeh Paz, to say Rothschild's dismissal was caused by her opposition to the proposed changes.

Eighteen months ago, Rothschild and a number of other mental-health professionals met with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman to express their opposition to the changes. A day later, Rothschild was summoned to the office of Sheba director-general Mordechai Shani for a meeting.

Currently, patients seeking mental health services are often forced to enter the private market at great personal expense.

In recent months the hospital's child psychology clinic has been forced to cancel psychology internships and reduce residents' training hours.

The cuts "are resulting in psychological treatment being shunted aside in favor of drug treatment for children and youth with mental health issues," said a Sheba administrator.

"These reforms are accompanied by cuts in training for psychologists and social workers," said Hana Strum-Cohen, director of the Meitivia advocacy group.