While the Population, Immigration and Border Authority notifies Rose Fostanes, the Filipina caregiver who won X-Factor, that she can sing only at weddings and for free, even though her prize includes a recording and talent management contract, Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa'ar has approved regulations that are intended to ease the lives of the elderly and handicapped who need the services of caregivers such as Rose.
Like the Immigration Authority's congratulations to Rose, who can sing with all her might, but under very restrictive conditions, Sa'ar's reform does not deal with the entire problem, and is intended for a limited group of people needing nursing care, while others will continue to suffer in silence.
Some of the regulations, which will shortly be sent to the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, are welcome: dealing with caregivers whose patients have applied to extend their caregivers' stay in Israel; a response to claims of workers who have changed employers one after another; and those who abandoned patients in the periphery for patients residing in central Israel.
Extending the work licenses of caregivers of patients and the elderly beyond the five years set in the law is a genuine and worthy reform, because the emotional ties between the patient and caregiver requires the latter continuing his or her work, and replacing a caregiver every five years causes great suffering. Making this extension conditional on entry into Israel on a nursing visa and continuous work permit with the patient is completely logical.
The restriction capping the switching of employers to three, after which the caregiver is summoned for clarifications by the Immigration Authority, and deporting a caregiver if it turns out that he or she abused the work permit, is also acceptable. In contrast, the restriction on the areas where the caregiver is allowed to work, and deporting those who go out of bounds, shackles employees to the employer, which may not stand the test of the court.
If Sa'ar wants to carry out real reform in the sector, he should, for example, deal with the high cost of a work permit, which is NIS 840 that the patient, handicapped or elderly person must pay every two years to the company employing the caregiver that receives an additional payment from National Insurance as well. Patients who need nursing care are usually people who have no extra money, if they have any at all, and paying the permit every five years should be considered.
Another problem is the long wait for caregivers, which can be months. After the obstacles the people needing nursing care undergo before obtaining the hoped for permit, it often turns out that there are no available caregivers in the country, and it is necessary to invite a worker from abroad, which naturally fills a pocket or two. Usually, caregivers with work permits who are in the country go through interviews with the patients and make extreme and illogical demands of them.
We now come to the failure that no one talks about: what does a patient and his or her family do when the caregiver goes on a 45-day vacation, or takes a long weekend or four-day holiday? After all, no-one will leave a needy elderly person alone.
The "fillers" industry of replacement caregivers for the elderly thrives beneath the surface. A friend brings a friend for a lot of money that the elderly person's family must pay. This too requires a solution.
If we have mentioned Rose, it is interesting to wonder what would have happened if the X-Factor winner was, say, a Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball player whose work permit in Israel states "basketball player only".
In that case, would the Immigration Authority have hastened to declare that he was forbidden to sing for payment? I doubt it. Just like the commercial campaigns by foreign basketball and football players in the past. For pay, of course.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 16, 2014
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