Women may no longer hire private midwives at public hospitals, which may no longer dodge the attorney general's rule prohibiting doctors from engaging in private practice at government and municipal medical centers.
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The Health Ministry's legal adviser, Mira Huebner-Harel, announced the move Thursday in a letter to the hospitals affected. The directive goes into effect Sunday.
“I presume that all government and municipal hospitals are aware of the attorney general’s directive regarding the prohibition against payment for the choice of physician," she wrote. "Selection of a 'personal' midwife in exchange for payment is included in this prohibition."
Huebner-Harel said advertising that a private midwife's services come “independent of the type of birth or length” and depend only on the money paid “comes at the expense of other mothers giving birth, who may need to be followed more intensively due to their condition."
The directive was issued after Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital launched a private midwife service. But Ichilov isn't the first public hospital to offer such services for a fee, according to Shlomit Avni of the Van Leer Institute’s Center for Social Justice and Democracy.
Avni notes that at Sheba Medical Center, a midwife also employed by the hospital can be hired for NIS 3,300. Also, Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center and Laniado Hospital will rent out a private room for labor.
At Laniado, a private midwife costs NIS 4,000, and private obstetricians and anesthesiologists can also be hired, most of whom also work for the hospital.
For his part, Sheba Medical Center CEO Zeev Rothstein said "there is no personal midwife service at Sheba as described in Huebner-Harel’s letter, perish the thought. But we are once again witnessing damage to the public and public medicine; this time from the Health Ministry’s legal adviser.”