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Israel's psychiatric hospitals will be upgraded as part of a NIS 150 million three-year plan developed by the Health Ministry. The ministry's director general, Ronni Gamzu, initiated the plan following a Haaretz expose in August on inadequate conditions at the facilities and on pressure from local authorities and developers to limit the hospitals' growth.

The Eitanim Psychiatric Hospital outside of Jerusalem will undergo an extensive NIS 30 million face-lift after photos of the inadequate facilities appeared in Haaretz. This included pictures (in the newspaper's Hebrew edition ) of mattresses in the facility's hallways where patients had to sleep. Over the summer, Eitanim employees also complained that patients from closed wards had to sleep in the hospital dining room due to a shortage in space.

Another planned renovation project involves a NIS 15 million upgrade to the Be'er Yaakov-Nes Tziona Mental Health Center; the ministry is hoping this will be approved by local authorities despite a real estate development project slated for an adjoining plot of land.

The Health Ministry's initiative also calls for the thorough renovation of the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam, following a shift in position on the part of the local municipality, which in principle now supports the improvements. This plan calls for the facilities for youth and autistic patients - which accommodated 60 patients in old buildings - to be demolished and replaced by new structures, including a hostel, at an estimated cost of NIS 40 million.

At the psychiatric hospital in Be'er Sheva, a new 30-bed facility for youth is planned. The project, which is expected to cost around NIS 13 million, will also feature a school to be run by the Education Ministry.

Substandard conditions at the Mazra Psychiatric Hospital in Acre still remain unresolved, however. Hearings were held this week at the Knesset at the initiative of MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima ), who is a physician, in an effort to address the conditions at this facility - which include 12 to 14 patients being assigned to one patient room.

The Acre municipality has refrained from issuing building permits at the site because city officials hope to relocate the facility, which is currently situated on a plot near the sea that is attractive for real estate development.

At this week's meeting, it was agreed that alternative locations for the hospital would be explored and in the interim, the Health Ministry would allocate NIS 16 million for interior renovations that do not require a building permit.

Annually, 4,300 new patients are admitted to psychiatric hospitals in Israel and 16,700 previously admitted patients return to these facilities.