Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is finally going home after nearly five years' hospitalization, but he is still in a vegetative state. It won't be easy, and the process will involve the transfer of a significant amount of medical equipment to Sharon's home at Sycamore Ranch. It will also involve transfer of funds to coffers of the Ministry of Health.
The Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday authorized the payment for the 82-year-old former prime minister's care, which totals some 1.6 million shekels ($440,000) annually.
The Finance Ministry representative was unable to answer a question from committee chairman, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Moshe Gafni, whether the same level of funding would be transferred to the Health Ministry following Sharon's return home. Instead, he recommended the committee send its question to the Health Ministry directly. The Health Ministry is headed by UTJ Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman.
Sharon has been in a vegetative state for nearly five years, since suffering a massive stroke in January 2006, five months after his government expelled nearly 10,000 Jews from their homes in the Gush Katif region of Gaza and northern Samaria.
After initial treatment at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center, and a stint at the Lowenstein Rehabilitation Center, Sharon has spent most of the time in the respiratory rehabilitation unit at Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer Hospital.
The hospital staff has been training Sharon's family, nurses and para-professional staff over the past several days in how to use the complex medical equipment necessary for the former prime minister's continued care.
Two years ago, the hospital began discussing with the family the eventuality of Sharon's return home.
A statement from the medical center said it “welcomes the family's decision, in the belief that it is better for 'Arik, who belongs to all of us' to live his life at the ranch, surrounded by his loved ones and the scenery he loved, rather than in a room at the hospital.”
In February 2009, the social action organization Ometz complained to the Health Ministry over the issue of Sharon's ongoing care in the hospital at public expense. Ometz chairman Aryeh Avneri wrote in a letter at the time, “We became aware that there are no special medical services that Mr. Sharon is being given at the hospital, but that the family has refused the hospital's request [to take him home] and there the matter stands.”
The former prime minister is being cared for privately in a room designed for two, with body guards on duty, a private duty nurse around the clock, and surveillance cameras.