We Have an Interest in Remaining Alive

When someone is lightly wounded by a Qassam rocket in the south, there's a big fuss. But when people die unnecessarily at our hospitals, no one cares a whit.

The Carmel fire, the 1997 helicopter disaster, the Second Lebanon War, the Yom Kippur War - this year we had an even greater disaster, but no commission of inquiry looked into it. In this year's disaster, we lost more people than in those two wars together. It's an ongoing battle that claims around 4,000 casualties every year, according to official figures that have probably been toned down. We lose this battle time and again - but it seems nobody cares.

Israel's hospitals, which are supposed to save us from illness and injury, have turned into our worst killing fields. Of course, some people can no longer be saved, so they die of their diseases or wounds. But thousands of others die every year for another reason - infections during hospitalization. These people succumb to superbugs that are extremely resistant to antibiotics but have no connection to the problem for which the patients were hospitalized in the first place.

Who hasn't heard about a case like the following from family or friends? A person is hospitalized, sometimes for something marginal. Soon enough, he's a shadow of his former self. This person will never be the same. In the best-case scenario, he will remain an invalid. In the worst case, he will die an agonizing death. For him, entering the hospital became a journey of no return.

Danny Rupp, the TV weatherman who recently lost his father following an operation at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, has launched a Facebook campaign against the neglect at our hospitals, neglect that sometimes borders on recklessness. Problems must be solved such as the medical staff's poor hygiene, which increases the risk of infection.

But the main foul-ups are systemic - and the government is responsible. The public health system is underbudgeted and operating at a low level; this prevents the trained and caring staff from functioning properly. Everyone should receive reasonable medical care, not merely the rich (who seek private care ) and the well-connected.

Meanwhile, we are easy pickings for the superbugs, and despite thorough media reporting (such as Channel 1's investigation ) and the thousands of victims, the health minister, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Health Ministry haven't dealt with the problem appropriately. When someone is lightly wounded by a Qassam rocket in the south, there's a big fuss and the Israel Defense Forces spends a huge sum on retaliation and prevention. But when more than 10 people die every day on average, no one cares a whit. The Finance Ministry won't spend a shekel to prevent us from dying in droves.

On top of all this, the Health Ministry has statistics about infections at our hospitals. The ministry published these figures recently, without mentioning the hospitals' names. The pressure to publish this vital information was warded off with the strange claim that it wasn't of public interest.

The time has come to say to the Health Ministry and Netanyahu at the head: We have an interest in knowing which hospitals are endangering our lives. We have an interest in knowing which operating rooms to avoid. We have an interest in knowing that our hospitals are being supervised and will respond to public pressure. We may even want to launch a boycott that will get them in line. We have an interest in remaining alive.