Helping Ukrainian refugees will deny Israelis healthcare services -Arbel

Science and Health

As a result of the intention of the government to cut the Health Ministry budget as part of the aid program for refugees from Ukraine, Health Minister Moshe Arbel sent a letter on Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warned that if the cuts are carried out, essential health services to Israeli citizens will be harmed.

Arbel wrote that “the healthcare system is currently facing a significant budgetary challenge due to the tremendous increase in demand for medical treatment resulting from the accelerated aging and growth of Israel’s population. Because of this, we are experiencing lengthening waiting times for services and increasing difficulty for the health funds to meet their budgets without seriously harming the service they provide to the public. Significant programs that the ministry is supposed to implement will be stopped.” 

The minister pointed out that despite the fact that not all requests for a budget increase have materialized, his ministry has prepared several plans and measures designed to help the system cope with the growing demands and health needs of the population. “Despite our efforts,” Arbel wrote, “since the approval of the budget, it has been brought to our attention that cuts straight across the ministry’s budget are expected to be carried out in compliance with agreements with other ministries that amount to approximately NIS 100 million. This comes in addition to a cut of about NIS 360 million in our budget, which already undermines our ability to meet the needs of the public.”

Which healthcare services will be harmed by Israel aiding Ukrainian refugees?

He added that “at this late stage in the year, we have not yet received the sums we were promised in the budget discussions, and they are delayed. We are still waiting for the additions to the system that were promised for 2023 in the amount of over NIS 650 million while – in practical terms – the 2023 budget is coming to an end. Therefore, to the extent that the ministry will be required to provide the proposed budget, I have asked our director-general, [Moshe Bar Siman Tov,] to inform the relevant bodies of reductions in one or more of the following programs and deepen the cuts in additional programs.”

DOCTORS ON their way into an emergency room. (credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)

These include:

  • A cut in the financial support for the public hospitals that are also in an impossible budgetary difficulty resulting from insufficient promotion of their budget.
  • Reducing support for the resilience centers for people who have suffered trauma due to terrorist attacks.
  • Cutting the program to shorten queues for surgeries.
  • Cutting millions of shekels from the psychiatric care support for 2024 and delaying the removal of long-term patients to communities.
  • Reducing financial support for Magen David Adom.
  • Reductions and delays in manpower training programs including those for doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.
  • Halting health promotion programs with the local government.

Arbel added that at a policy level, the financing of the activity for the Ukrainian refugees will open the door for many more demographics that are not currently entitled to medical services in Israel due to their status and the ministry’s ability to distinguish among these different groups (eligible and non-eligible) will be harmed so that, in practice, every person staying in Israel, regardless of their legal status, will be entitled to health services.

There are tens of thousands of people living here whose status the State of Israel has not decided, some of them from countries in states of political instability who are not entitled to health services for obvious reasons, he went on. “The issue is to be discussed in the High Court of Justice. It is obvious that in urgent cases of these groups, the hospitals provide treatment and finance the response without any compensation. This state of affairs may lead to the reduction of the services provided to the various populations to a minimum and lead to unprecedented budgetary hacking and exposure. Therefore, I firmly oppose the distribution of resources stipulated in the proposal of the decision-makers that will cause a cut in our budget and cause severe damage to our basic activities.”