Israel's cabinet is convening today in Eilat to approve a NIS 400 million development plan for the Red Sea city and the adjacent Eilot region in 2020-2023.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted the plan submitted together with the decision to close down Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv last June, in view of the consequences of closing the air route to the city, including in health, and Eilat's need for development for a number of reasons. The plan, based on budgets diverted from government ministries, includes development in health, tourism, maritime agriculture, maritime biotechnology, and business.
As recently reported in "Globes," the plan to revamp the health system in Eilat is needed primarily because of the lack of doctors and medical staff in the city, which has resulted in dozens of doctors being flown to Eilat weekly for years via Sde Dov Airport.
Eilat residents have also used Sde Dov to obtain medical treatment unavailable in Eilat by flying to the central region. Since Sde Dov has been closed down, the shortage of staff and services has been exacerbated, now that many doctors have stopped flying to Eilat because flying through Ben Gurion Airport and Ramon Airport (located 20 minutes travel time from Eilat) takes more time. Specialists currently lacking in Eilat include gynecologists, pediatricians, radiologists, child development doctors, psychiatrists, cardiologists, dermatologists, internal doctors, and intensive care doctors.
As a result of the shortage, the length of lines for doctors and medical services in the city are liable to be double or more in comparison with the central region. The plan to boost medical services in Eilat amounts to NIS 150 million, NIS 50 million more than originally approved. A senior health system source said that the sum earmarked for upgrading the health system in Eilat would not be affected by any possible scenario, and did not depend on the formation of a new government following the elections in September. A large proportion of the budget will also be allocated after 2023, so that the revised or new services will continue operating in the city.
As revealed by "Globes," the plan includes grants of up to NIS 1 million for five years for doctors moving to Eilat (the current outlying areas grants are NIS 500,000, but these are motivating doctors to move to cities such as Beer Sheva or Nahariya, not Eilat). A total of NIS 14 million will be allocated to this purpose, plus NIS 1.6 million for open grants for other health professionals.
NIS 13 million will be allocated to flying doctors to Eilat with cooperation between the health funds. This will be added to the annual NIS 10 million that the health funds were already spending on flying doctors to the city. More compensation will probably be needed now per working day for doctors agreeing to fly to Eilat, because the trip takes more times than before.
NIS 14 million will be allocated for upgrading remote medical services (telemedicine), which can save on flying doctors to the city on the one hand and patients to the central region on the other. The government will transfer NIS 26 million by 2023 to build a helicopter pad, so that there will be an available helicopter in the city. No such helicopter exists in Eilat at present; the only helicopter at the disposal of Eilat residents in an emergency, which belongs to Magen David Adom, comes from the Beer Sheva region, and patients must be driven by ambulance to Yotvata in order to reach it, which is liable to exact a heavy price in terms of their health because of the delay.
NIS 1.6 million will be invested in encouraging a home treatment system, with cooperation between the funds, plus NIS 75 million for upgrading infrastructure lacking in Yoseftal, the only hospital in Eilat, which belongs to Clalit Health Services. This infrastructure includes operating rooms, a dialysis institute, a gastroenterology institute, a room for treatment of acute cases of sexual assault, a CT scanner, and maternity rooms.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 4, 2019
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