Magen David Adom Accused of Abusing Its Power to Win New Business

Rescue service allegedly forcing organizations to contract its services at secure events.

The Magen David Adom rescue service has allegedly been exploiting the authority granted it by law in an attempt to force organizations to contract its services at secure events, according to documents submitted to the state comptroller and the attorney general.

Since 1989, every large gathering or public event has to be coordinated with MDA, which determines the scope of medical personnel and equipment that must be on call at the event - how many ambulances, what types of ambulances, how many paramedics and so on.

But aside from being the certifying body, MDA is also a supplier - apparently the country's largest - of these same medical security services. Recently, the Ihud Hatzala rescue service has begun to compete for this business, and MDA apparently finds itself facing an integral conflict of interest.

This tension has come to the fore over the past few months at several events in Jerusalem and its environs, most recently at the mass gathering at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem last week on the anniversary of the Matriarch Rachel's death.

The annual hilula at the tomb is organized by the National Center for the Development of the Holy Places, a government agency. It attracts some 100,000 people each year.

Documents obtained by Haaretz, which were also sent to the state comptroller and the attorney-general, show that MDA increased its requirements for security at the event, apparently ensuring that only an entity of its size could win the tender.

While in 2010 MDA demanded that only one ambulance be present, at a cost of NIS 4,499, this year the demands were inflated to include a mobile command unit, a mobile intensive care unit, and a station for handling a multiple-casualty event, for which MDA submitted a bid of NIS 14,000.

Despite the increased demands, Ihud Hatzala submitted a lower bid that met all of MDA's requirements, and the hilula organizers chose Ihud Hatzala to provide medical security for the event.

MDA was shocked. Its Jerusalem district director, Shlomo Petrover, sent an angry letter to Yossi Shvinger, CEO of the Center for the Development of the Holy Places, demanding to know whether the center had made certain that "the entity chosen" had at its disposal all the necessary equipment and had the experience needed to deal with a mass disaster.

Shvinger replied that "the Israel Police is responsible for the event, and it instructed us not to favor one organization over another."

"While Ihud Hatzala sent us an orderly proposal, I was forced to chase MDA to get its proposal," Shvinger added. "During the last two days I repeatedly begged you to submit a proposal. Unfortunately, I'm not endowed with surplus budgets and it's my obligation to negotiate for the lowest possible bid, as is the case with any supplier working with any government agency."

In late July, Shas organized an event at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium to mark the completion of the seven-year daily study cycle of the Babylonian Talmud. According to one of the organizers, MDA dragged its feet in providing its medical security requirements for the event because Shas had made it clear from the start that it planned to use the services of a Haredi medical organization.

"The police were pressuring us to get the paper from MDA and settle things, but we had to get our politicians involved," said the source. "In the end we got the paper on Friday, when the event was the following Monday."

MDA has not responded to repeated requests for comment.