Health services are not delivered equitably across Israel, according to the new state comptroller's report, which found that citizens in outlying areas wait far longer for treatments than those in the central regions. It calls on the Health Ministry to examine ways to reduce these inequalities, calling this a “national mission.”
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The report mentioned a past proposal to strengthen hospitals in the periphery by creating clusters of cooperation among them that never got off the ground and also discusses the extreme shortage of geriatric rehabilitation locations in the outlying areas, which Haaretz warned about in a July 2011 investigative report.
The comptroller also noted deficient infrastructures in hospitals which undermine cleanliness and efforts to prevent infections. Several medical institutions, for example, still have roofs that contain asbestos, a proven carcinogen for humans. The report also details construction failures found during the audit of medical centers throughout the country and says that many hospitals would not withstand an earthquake.
The report found that deficiencies in the infrastructure of psychiatric hospitals stem from, among other things, the opposition of local authorities to new construction in these hospitals, as revealed in Haaretz in August 2010.
The primary problem plaguing hospital construction and infrastructure is the chronic lack of development and maintenance budgets that senior health officials say has generated an accumulated shortfall of about NIS 2.5 billion shekels, the report said.
“The ministry has a comprehensive plan to improve the infrastructures in psychiatric hospitals, but they can’t be implemented for lack of funds," the Health Ministry said in response, adding that, "now there is funding for upgrading mental health clinics and their infrastructures will be put into decent shape.
“As for maintaining infrastructures in all medical institutions, as the comptroller’s report notes, there can be no preventive maintenance without budgets.”
In regard to treatment gaps in the various geographic regions, the ministry said, “The ministry in 2012 announced that it would support efforts by the health maintenance organizations to carry out intervention plans to reduce geographic health gaps. During 2012 the ministry signed an agreement with the Gertner Institute [for Health Policy Research] to set up a national database to address the inequities.”