Israeli Hospital to Suspend Doctors Accused of Medical Tourism Corruption

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The director general of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv has decided to begin suspension proceedings against three surgeons who demanded additional payment from medical tourists on top of the public hospital's fees. The decision comes following an investigative report on the television program “Uvda” ("Fact") that exposed the doctors' practices.

In a letter he sent to the hospital’s doctors and employees Tuesday morning, Prof. Gabriel Barbash wrote, “Last night an ‘Uvda’ report aired, in which three of our senior physicians are seen demanding payment for treating medical tourists in the hospital. It should be said up front and clearly: No one has any doubt that it is forbidden to demand or receive payment for treatment provided to a citizen or tourist within the public hospital. This morning, after the program was broadcast and in light of the piercing footage, action is called for.”

Barbash said that the difficult decision could temporarily have an adverse effect on the hospital's functioning. “It’s upsetting," he wrote. "These are leading doctors -- doctors with many merits who live and breathe our hospital from morning to night and to whom thousands owe their lives."

He went on to say that the decision about how to handle to matter is “liable to have far-reaching consequences" for entire neurosurgical unit and the continued treatment of hundreds of patients, both adults and children. “But our center, like every hospital, must obey the law, the rules of operation dictated to us and the ethical principles that are required of anyone involved in the medical profession," he wrote. "Hesitation here is liable to cause additional damage and to undermine organizational ethics, which would have equally grave consequences.”

Therefore, he wrote, “I am obligated to initiate suspension proceedings against the three doctors.”

Barbash assured his colleagues that Ichilov Hospital has successfully handled crises in the past, saying, "We were strengthened and have become an outstanding and leading mega-center despite the crises, because we have never whitewashed mistakes and mishaps; we investigated, learned and drew conclusions. None of us is immune to error. We are learning, and will draw conclusions from this incident as well.”

An empty treatment room at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Feb. 27, 2012.Credit: Moti Milrod

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