The Knesset Health Committee postponed a discussion Monday on the proposed Medical Tourism Law for its second and third reading - a bill aimed at regulating the entry of non-Israelis to receive medical treatment in Israel. Among issues up for discussion was the question of whether the bill, which would restrict the ability of 'medical tourists' to pay for use of Israel's medical system, would also apply to Palestinian Authority residents.
Prior to the hearing, a researcher from the Lavi watchdog organization discussed the situation in the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Department at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, in light of reports received by the organization that the majority of the hospitalized patients are not Israeli, and that there are hardly any Israeli citizens there at all.
A fieldworker who visited the department last weekend spoke with a department staff member, who told him that "most of the [patients in the] department are Palestinians. Today there's one Jew, two Russians and the rest are Palestinians."
A Lavi spokesperson called the finding a symptom of a larger "national calamity" afflicting Israel's healthcare system.
"The entire Israeli health system is flooded with non-Israelis, departments are collapsing, and Israeli citizen's health services are seriously compromised. We expect Knesset Members to regulate the matter before it is too late. We call upon Committee Chairman MK Eli Elalouf and other committee members: Take responsibility for the health of the citizens of Israel and remedy the matter."
"The increasing number of Palestinian patients in Israeli hospitals comes at the expense of Israeli patients," a Lavi report claims. "Israel's medical infrastructure in the field of oncology cannot withstand the burden, and as a result is unable to provide a reasonable response to Israeli citizen's needs."
According to the State Comptroller's report, the hospitals prioritize patients who are residents of the Palestinian Authority over Israeli citizens. According to data from the Knesset Research and Information Center, within five years the number of patients from the PA doubled in Israeli hospitals. The main burden is felt by pediatric oncology departments, some of which are suffering a major crisis due to the load, while Israeli parents are forced to compete over the remaining hospital beds for their cancer-stricken children.
The Lavi report also cites to a past investigation which revealed that in the Hematology-Oncology Department at Safra Children's Hospital in Tel Hashomer Sheba, which suffers from a severe shortage of space and a hospital bed waiting list, at least half of the hospitalized patients are not Israeli. At times, the portion of non-Israeli patients has reached as much as 75%.
Additionally, an investigation of the Pediatric Oncology Department at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv found that 90% of ward patients were not Israeli citizens, but foreigners and PA residents.
"Official documents prove that in recent years, the scope of medical care for Palestinian Authority residents has doubled in Israeli hospitals. Most of the burden is placed on the oncology departments, creating a situation in which Israeli parents must fight for beds for their cancerous children. We expect the members of the Health Committee to reject outright attempts to exclude Palestinian Authority residents from the provisions of the law," concluded the Lavi organization.
The hearing was postponed due to an unresolved argument whether the matter should be referred to the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.