Israeli Watchdog Raps Hospitals, Police, Asylum-seeker System and Construction Safety Authorities

Both the health and asylum-seeker authorities aren't correcting deficiencies pointed out in previous reports, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira says in his annual report

File photo: Surgeons at Galilee Medical Center in 2017.
Rami Shllush

This year’s state comptroller’s report contains sharp criticism of the state’s handling of asylum seekers, the country’s psychiatric hospitals, failures in law enforcement and construction safety, and appointments by the police commissioner.

According to the report released Tuesday, only 52 asylum requests were approved over the past nine years, of the 55,433 requests submitted – and only 10 were for Sudanese or Eritrean nationals. The processing of 29,783 requests, more than half of those submitted since 2009, had not been completed by the end of 2017.

Nor has the state established suitable health and welfare infrastructure for asylum seekers – a situation that hasn’t changed since the previous report on this issue in 2014, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira says.

Commenting on the health system, Shapira said the clinical training of Israeli medical students was “deficient to the point of failure.” A lack of evaluation measures leads department heads at hospitals to certify unqualified interns. Moreover, some 40 percent of doctors joining the health system are Israelis who studied abroad under loose supervision.

A third of patients in hospital psychiatric wards – some 1,200 people – are being kept there for no reason other than that there is no other place for them. “These patients are forced to stay in these wards, sometimes for long periods, at times years, because the wards serve as a housing solution for them,” Shapira writes. He harshly criticizes the Health Ministry for not correcting many deficiencies in these facilities pointed out in previous reports.

As for law enforcement, hundreds of police commanders were appointed in 2016 and 2017 by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich without having the required qualifications, the report says. These appointments were made without criteria and without any explanations given.

Meanwhile, the state prosecution and the police seek indictments without examining all the investigative material, and sometimes before receiving a forensic report, which casts doubts on their decisions, the report says. Important documents are misfiled, and there are serious delays in getting relevant material to defense attorneys, particularly the transcripts of police testimonies. As a result, cases drag on far longer than necessary.

Also, nothing was ever done with around 73 percent of the DNA samples received by the police’s criminal identification department. Thousands of samples were never entered into the police database because of errors, and samples taken after property crimes were never checked because of a lack of staffing. The department’s lab is so behind in its work that cases are closed even when detectives find evidence implicating suspects, Shapira writes.

He also has scathing criticism for the negligence of government agencies responsible for safety in the construction industry. It has been years since the Contractors Registrar has taken action against thousands of building contractors who work without proper registration, Shapira says, adding that the occupational safety and health authorities have been very deficient in supervising construction sites, putting lives at risk.

The report describes deficiencies in the allocation of security funding for communities along the borders and in the West Bank, known as “conflict communities.” Shapira found that these communities do not receive all the security funding they are entitled to because of a lack of coordination among the relevant agencies. At issue are 407 communities that are home to 900,000 people.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry has failed to properly implement its “meaningful learning” reform, Shapira says. The reform, the initiative of former Education Minister Shay Prion, was meant to make studies more relevant to students and shift the focus away from grades. But it was launched without proper planning, teacher training or attention to the results of similar reforms around the world, Shapira says.