The Health Ministry this week inaugurated an upgraded community clinic for migrant workers and asylum-seekers, located in the central bus station in south Tel Aviv.
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Health professionals hope the clinic will reduce the number of migrants seeking treatment at the Ichilov Hospital's emergency room. Since most migrants lack health insurance, they often can't afford to see an ordinary doctor.
The ministry decided to set up the clinic at the recommendation of a committee established in response to an uproar that erupted six months ago, when Ichilov issued rules saying migrants should be kept separate from hospitalized Israelis.
The clinic the government's emergency-care clinic network. The ministry has invested NIS 3.2 million in the clinic, which will include a laboratory for blood tests, x-ray and EKG machines, and a network of consulting physicians who won't be physically present, but will assist the doctors on site via telemedicine.
In the trial period that preceded the formal launch, the clinic treated about 35 patients a day. The ministry expects this figure to increase now that the clinic is officially up and running.
The clinic will prescribe basic drugs from a list drawn up by the ministry, and refer more serious cases to the hospital. It plans to hire Sudanese and Eritrean migrants - the two largest migrant communities in Israel - to work as translators.
A visit to the clinic will cost NIS 15. That could deter some migrants, but the operators say the fee will be waived for those who truly can't pay. In principle, they explained, a fee helps ensure that patients are sufficiently committed to actually carrying out the prescribed treatment.
Prior to establishing the clinic, the ministry did a study of 600 case histories from migrants treated at various other clinics in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, including a much more limited one run by the ministry and another run by PHR. The study found that 90 percent of migrants sought treatment for illness rather than injury, and most of the illnesses were temporary rather than chronic. The most common problems were bone or muscle disease (20 percent ) and skin or respiratory disease (15 percent ).
The study also found that most migrants tend to be young, healthy people, but their health sometimes deteriorates over time as they adopt unhealthy Western habits like eating sugary snacks.