Doctor Gets Brief License Suspension for Taking Bribes

The Health Ministry will briefly suspend the medical license of a prominent physician at Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center who was convicted last year of receiving NIS 3,000 in bribes from reputed crime boss Asi Abutbul in exchange for preferential treatment, a ministry-appointed judge has decided.

Jacky Sarov, the former head of the hospital's emergency medicine department, will have his license suspended for three months, beginning September 1.

The ministry's decision not to penalize Sarov more harshly could mean that he will get his old job back once his license is restored.

"This decision paves the way for Sarov to return to the hospital," said a senior hospital administrator.

The Tel Aviv municipality, which owns the hospital, temporarily suspended Sarov from his post in August 2008, because he was undergoing a disciplinary hearing as well as criminal proceedings.

No one has been appointed to replace Sarov since his departure, though Dr. Pinchas Halpern has filled the position in the interim.

In ruling that Sarov's license should be suspended for three months, retired judge Vardi Zeiler adopted the recommendations of a Health Ministry committee examining a complaint that was filed by ministry director general Boaz Lev after Sarov's January 2009 conviction for taking bribes.

Zeiler said the offense was serious, but added that Sarov's extended suspension was having a negative effect on his family's finances and that his actions did not entail moral turpitude, which would have affected whether he could continue to work as a physician - a decision that Sarov's attorney, Navot Tel-Zur, said "speaks for itself."

"Accepting bribes is a serious offense, one which could undermine a physician's fair treatment of the population, distort a doctor's judgment and show the public that a physician's considerations are not always medical," Zeiler wrote in his decision, reached two weeks ago.

Sarov - one of Tel Aviv's most prominent physicians, nicknamed "doctor to the stars" - was convicted of accepting NIS 3,000 in bribes from Abutbul on three occasions between 2005 and 2006. In exchange, Abutbul was allowed to receive treatment immediately without waiting in line.

Still, Zeiler echoed the remarks of Sarov's attorney that the physician had suffered a miscarriage of justice in court.

In January 2009 the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined NIS 15,000, and his offenses were ruled to involve moral turpitude.

But Sarov appealed the case and in December, the Tel Aviv District Court commuted his jail sentence to six months of community service (though the fine remained ). This week Sarov completed his community service: maintenance work at the Kfar Hayarok boarding school.