The health committee was informed today (Tuesday) of the plight of doctors and the working conditions at the Institute of Forensic Medicine. The chairman of the committee, MK Yoni Meshariki (Shas) called on the Treasury to offer immediate incentives to recruit additional forensic doctors every year, and called on them and the Ministry of Health to present answers and a plan to the committee within a week.
According to the initiator of the discussion, MK Vladimir Belyak (Yesh Atid), the institute cannot function due to a dilapidated structure, under-budgeting and lack of personnel. “If in the past the delays were in the issuance of opinions, today the delay is already in the identification and removal of bodies for burial. To the task of identifying the bodies of those killed in the Iron Swords War, routine and varied tasks are added such as forensic examinations, clinical examinations of victims of sexual assault, sudden deaths of young people and babies, identification of anonymous bodies, investigation of work accidents, suicides and paternity testing.”
Bliak emphasized that the size of the institute is 10%-15% of what is accepted in the Western world, where there is a forensic doctor for every 100-200 thousand people, so that Israel should have at least 50 doctors specializing in forensic medicine. However, at the Abu Kabir Legal Institute, the staff includes only 6 specialist doctors, 2 interns, 5 technicians, 2 secretaries and 1 photographer. The acute shortage of manpower and the lack of suitable resources harms the institute’s ability to function these days, more than any other day of the year.
According to the director of the institute, Dr. Chen Kugel, when the dimensions of the war became clear, 9 forensic doctors were recruited from abroad, as well as 40 radiologists, DNA experts and anthropologists, and the State of Israel must prepare for such heavy disasters. The Ministry of Health assigned standards, but doctors do not want to come because of the agreements and salary conditions, when five years ago – there were 15 doctors compared to only eight today, when two are about to leave. The building itself cannot hold more doctors due to its size. Dr. Maya Furman, a doctor at the institute, complained about the delay in providing legal and criminal reports, caused by the acute shortage of forensic doctors.
Dobi Weisenstern, CEO of Zaka, warned of the poor salary conditions of the Institute’s employees – “Until you talk about the dignity of the dead, you are dishonoring the dignity of the living.”
Shanir Elmaleh, from the organization’s legal department, presented the conditions of private medicine for doctors who will join the institute, Alon Crispil, the chairman of the Association of Forensic Doctors, warned that now there will be no investigation into the cause of death of IDF soldiers, and despite about 40 interns coming to the institute every year – Because of the salary conditions, they do not stay to work. Dr. Ze’ev Feldman, chairman of the state employee doctors’ organization, claimed that the person in charge of salaries at the Treasury does not show enough flexibility to solve the crisis.
Corporal Ariel Gad Sa’ar, head of the police missing persons unit, explained that criminal and insurance considerations cause subjects to be brought to the institute, “there are indeed procedures – but each case is examined on its own merits.”
In the previous discussion on the subject in the committee, about six months ago, the committee demanded a national plan as a government decision, which would be budgeted and include the establishment of another Institute of Forensic Medicine in the Galilee region, the rapid promotion of the establishment of a new and advanced campus for the institute, the advancement of the salary and terms of employment of the pathologists and the medical staff required to operate the institute, training planning and the specialization of pathologists, and anchoring the institute as a statutory body or an independent administrative unit.
Shani Sharvit, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health, replied that the planning of the new institute structure will begin soon, the issue is of the highest priority, in the budget, standards and salary conditions, but she admitted that these are not satisfactory. Daniel Tor, the representative of the salary commissioner at the Treasury, added that everyone who worked in the last month will be rewarded accordingly, and a quick negotiation is underway to reach a salary agreement.
Efrat Raiten-Marom (Labor) praised the activities of the institute and the police and ZAKA, accepted the ongoing delay in solving the problems, and presented her request since the Miron disaster to plan and budget for the new institute. Yanon Azoulai (SHS) detailed the urgency of establishing a new and comprehensive institute, and called for the establishment of rules for determining the cause of death – which would take the burden off the institute. Tali Gottlieb (Likud) told about the appeal of the security to recognize the ZAKA members as reservists.