Israel’s environmental protection laws have teeth, but the government won’t bite, said the state comptroller on Tuesday, citing a failure to track and punish offenders, The Times of Israel reported.
In a new report, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira faulted the Environment Protection Ministry for not enforcing emissions limits with financial penalties and other measures at its disposal.
Samplings of air quality were deemed insufficient and no surprise visits were made by inspectors to factories in Haifa, where high cancer rates were recently linked to air pollution. The report did note, however, that nearly half the inspections which led to lawsuits were filed against factories in the Haifa district.
Another area covered by the report was the ailing health care system. As in previous surveys, it mentioned the lack in hospital beds and other medical equipment in hospitals, as well as a shortage of qualified nurses.
“More than 500 patients are at a higher risk of dying due to a shortage in hospital beds,” the report charges.
Only 30 percent of positions for physicians specializing in urgent care were staffed, writes Shapira, with specialists filling in. The specialists, he writes, “believe some patients die or become disabled due to misidentification of medical problems, due to a shortage of physicians specializing in urgent care.”
The state of internal medicine is likewise dire. Doctors are said to be facing an overload of 135-140 percent of patients they are expected to treat; there are three MRI machines for every million patients in Israel, whereas the OECD average is 14 per million.
The high quality of medical education in the country brings a significant amount of “medical tourism” — people coming from abroad to receive complex procedures at the hand of highly specialized Israeli surgeons. Somewhat ironically perhaps, “the service given to citizens of the state is hurt by giving medical tourism services in general hospitals. Medical tourism uses resources and infrastructure in hospitals which are under-equipped and intended, first and foremost, to serve the general population of Israel,” the report states.