MDA Forbids Staffers to Drive 'Rival' Ambulances

The Magen David Adom depot in Netivot has forbidden MDA volunteer ambulance drivers to volunteer as drivers for a non-governmental organization that provides ambulance services and medical equipment to the needy in Netivot and Ofakim, citing a conflict of interests.

MDA charges some NIS 700 for taking a patient from Netivot to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, while the Rachel Line Association charges only NIS 200.

An MDA depot manager told the organization's volunteer drivers six weeks ago that if they worked for any other organization they would be dismissed from MDA, one volunteer driver told Haaretz.

"They made it very clear to us that we were only allowed to volunteer for MDA exclusively, and if we did so for any other organizations we would be out of here," another MDA driver said following the warning.

The drivers told Uri Shem-Tov, CEO of Rachel Line, that they had no choice but to stop working for the NGO.

Shem-Tov, who makes a living teaching Talmud, established Rachel Line 12 years ago following the death of his daughter, Rachel, in a traffic accident. Since then he has dedicated his life to helping sick and unwell people.

The NGO provides the elderly and the needy with medical services and equipment in return for symbolic prices and distributes glatt kosher meals to patients' families at Soroka Medical Center.

About two months ago Shem-Tov decided to expand the NGO's activity and bought an ambulance for NIS 400,000, in keeping with Health Ministry regulations. At his request, the Netivot and Ofakim ambulance drivers agreed to volunteer as drivers in the NGO's service.

"I have no intention of making money, it's all done to help the weak and the needy," Shem-Tov said.

"After the drivers told me they were leaving I asked the MDA managers in the south what this was all about. They told me it's a conflict of interest," Shem-Tov said. "Dozens of people can't afford an ambulance and MDA is taking advantage of the situation. It's a disgrace," he said.