Israel to transfer all IVF to public hospitals after Assuta scandals

Science and Health

Israel’s Health Ministry wants to transfer responsibility for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) from private hospitals, which have several times been negligent, to public hospitals. 

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of IVF treatments in privately owned medical institutions, the ministry said on Monday. “This increase raised the need to increase and ensure the mechanisms required to maintain the quality and safety of treatment in this system, and in particular in the issues of ensuring working conditions, personnel status and appropriate infrastructures.”

In addition to and following a number of processes and discussions in the ministry that began even before the recent exceptional cases that occurred in the two IVF units in Assuta’s private medical centers, ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov has now appointed a team to examine the IVF system and formulate the necessary policy measures.

What were the IVF scandals at Israel’s hospitals?

IVF treatments, most of them paid for by the four health funds, have supplied private hospitals with considerable income. 

The ministry contacted the managers of the IVF units in all the private hospitals to examine the possibility of transferring activities to the public hospitals as soon as possible. In the letter sent on Monday, the managers of the public IVF units were asked if they could cope in the short term with the addition of treatment cycles – this on the assumption that it will be possible to choose a fertility specialist and there will be appropriate compensation for the doctors.

Illustrative image of Invitro therapy. (credit: PROFESSOR RONIT MECHTINGER)

Just recently, a child conceived at the IVF unit at Assuta Medical Center in Ramat Hahayal, Tel Aviv, was found not to have a genetic link to his father, raising concerns that the hospital mixed up sperm samples during the IVF process, the ministry said last week.

Assuta stated that in the past few days, it was contacted by a couple who performed IVF in 2018 and recently conducted a genetic test at a facility outside of Israel. The test showed that apparently, there was no genetic connection between the baby and the father, meaning that the sperm sample may have gotten mixed with a different sperm sample.

According to the hospital, the parents have asked that no inquiry be made and that their privacy be protected. The hospital added that it would update the ministry and the public as more details become clear, subject to the limitations of medical confidentiality.

The new suspected case of a mix-up during the IVF process comes less than a year after a woman who underwent the process at another Assuta private IVF unit in Rishon Lezion ruled that the fetus she was carrying was not her biological child. The ministry investigated the scandal and found that “economic considerations were preferred over basic principles of maintaining the quality and safety of treatment.”

The ministry also charged that “this preference turned the medical institution into an assembly line, derailed the cart and caused suffering and pain, not only to the patients who are in the first circle of the event, but to the community of patients and caregivers in Assuta and in all the IVF units in Israel,” ruled the investigation committee appointed by Dr. Boaz Lev, the ministry’s ombudsman for the medical professions and a former director-general.