Hospitals Slam Reinforcement Funding Delays

Anger as treasury freezes plans to defend hospital buildings against rocket attack.

Eleven directors of government-run hospitals protested to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday over the Finance Ministry's delay in providing funds needed to protect their institutions from rocket fire.

Assuta hospital.

The directors were told the funds would have to wait until the end of interministerial negotiations on the 2011 budget.

Following the Second Lebanon War of 2006, a decision was made to reinforce all Israeli hospitals against rocket fire. The state was to supply half the estimated cost of NIS 410 million, while private donors would fund the other half.

Earlier this week, however, the hospital directors were informed that the treasury had decided to freeze the money until budget negotiations between the finance and health ministries were concluded.

"To our surprise, the ministry announced that it would freeze funding for reinforcing hospitals and hold it 'hostage' to wrangling over the 2011 budget," the hospital directors wrote yesterday.

The Health Ministry said it "realized only recently that this funding was scandalously being delayed, thereby hinting at an attempt to exert pressure over budget negotiations," it said in a statement.

"We regret the Health Ministry's statements, which are untrue," the Finance Ministry retorted in its own statement. "Despite the budget discussions held between the ministries, at no point was there an agreement over funding for hospital reinforcement."