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Five-member Judicial Panel Named to Investigate Health Care Crisis

Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar appointed a five-member judicial commission Thursday to investigate the crisis in public health care and recommend long-term solutions.

The panel will be headed by Justice Shoshana Netanyahu. It will include two hospital administrators and experts in medical economies and labor relations.

Shamgar acted on a decision by the Cabinet earlier this month to tackle the health care problems in two stages.

A four-member ministerial committee, chaired by Premier Yitzhak Shamir, already has met several times to discuss short-term solutions.

It is trying to end the immediate crisis, which has subjected government and Histadrut hospitals to crippling strikes, work stoppages, slowdowns and sanctions by medical and non-medical personnel for the past several months.

The action continued Thursday. Only emergency medical procedures were being performed at the state-run hospitals and those of Kupat Holim, Histadrut’s health care agency. Outpatient clinics remained closed, as they have been for weeks.

The judicial commission will deal with planning and policy. Its report and recommendations are not expected for a year.

The ministerial committee will meet again after receiving an opinion from Attorney General Yosef Harish on a plan to end the labor strife at the hospitals.

In addition to Shamir, its members are Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Finance Minister Moshe Nissim and Health Minister Shoshana Arbeli-Almoslino.

PLAN INVOLVES EXTRA PREMIUM

The plan under consideration was drafted by the directors of 30 public hospitals. It calls for the members of various health insurance funds to pay an additional premium, equivalent to about $15 per month.

The extra money would enable the hospitals to shorten the list of patients waiting for elective surgery.

The wait, which sometimes is as long as a year, could be reduced to about six weeks by utilizing surgical theaters on a second shift.

Doctors have been demanding this, with compensation for their additional hours on duty. The Treasury has refused to consider a pay hike on grounds it will trigger similar demands elsewhere in the public sector.

Israelis now pay the equivalent of between $50 and $100 a month to belong to a health insurance fund. The additional $15 will improve service. But who pays it to the doctors, since the Treasury will not do so, is a matter of dispute.

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