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All Public Hospitals in Israel to Curtail Services

All public hospitals in Israel will provide drastically reduced medical services, beginning tomorrow, by order of the Ministry of Health. The curtailment is for economic reasons.

Only emergency surgery will be performed. Only patients requiring emergency treatment will be admitted. Out-patient clinics will be closed and all patients presently in hospitals will be discharged except in cases where their health would be endangered. It is not clear how hospitals operated by Hupat Holim, the Histadrut sick fund, will be affected.

Health Minister Mordechai Gur said the extreme measures are necessary because his ministry has failed to persuade the Treasury to provide the funds necessary to continue normal hospital service. An estimated $60 million is needed to keep the public hospitals functioning at their present level.

CONTROVERSY OVER EAST JERUSALEM HOSPITAL

An angry controversy erupted, meanwhile, in East Jerusalem where the Health Ministry ordered the 40-bed Hospis Hospital in the Old City to shut down. The hospital, which serves Arab patients and employs 150, was told to close its operating room and maternity ward at the beginning of this week and no new patients were to be admitted as of today.

The Health Ministry said the move is part of the economy drive and claimed also that Hospis has failed to meet minimum standards for several years and its patients would get better medical care at Jewish hospitals in east and west Jerusalem.

But Ismayil Taziz, chairman of the Committee of Friends of the Hospis Hospital charged at a press conference yesterday that the shutdown order was politically motivated, part of an Israeli drive to eliminate all Palestinian institutions. He said the economic retrenchment was irrelevant because the Hospis staff is prepared to run the hospital without government assistance.

MERCHANTS STAGE PROTEST STRIKE

Today, East Jerusalem merchants staged a protest strike which was almost 100 percent effective. There were no incidents. Tourists continued to throng the narrow streets of the Old City and the police presence was minimal.

Gur has rejected the charge of politics. He noted that Hospis was one of six hospitals all over Israel that will be shut down for economic reasons. He also blasted the government for forcing the hospitals on a reduced schedule. He told reporters he could not understand why the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and Histadrut’s Secretary General could not find a solution to the money problem.

The Treasury stopped the transfer of funds to public hospitals at the beginning of July. It demanded that the Health Ministry make up the shortfall by taxing public health insurance as, the Treasury claims, it originally agreed to do.

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