Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman responded sharply to implications by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that his ministry had “misplaced” a billion shekels in funding. “I was shocked to learn of the allegation that you authorized transfer of a billion shekels to the Health Ministry for the improvement of psychiatric hospitals, and not only that – but, upon discovering that the money had not been transferred, you sent another billion shekels. I would imagine that by this time you will have conducted a thorough investigation and concluded that not one shekel was transferred.”
The dispute began last week, when Kahlon at a meeting with Health Ministry officials said that he had transferred over a billion shekels – twice – to the ministry for the improvement of psychiatric hospitals, but that he had “no idea” where the money went. “I am the one who counts the money, so I know how much I transferred. Then I hear that there is no money,” Kahlon said – adding that the fate of the funds was a mystery to him.
There are 11 psychiatric hospitals in Israel with a total of 3,500 beds, and hospitals complain that they are overcrowded, have aging infrastructure, and don’t have money to conduct important programs, health officials said.
At the meeting, the officials asked Kahlon what could be done about the problems. In response, he told the officials, “I sent a billion shekels to the general-director of the ministry, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, just for the psychiatric hospitals, and then I understood there was still a problem – so I sent another billion shekels for their infrastructure. I just don’t know where that money went – he told me they were transferring the money to the hospitals, and now I hear from the officials at the hospitals that they didn’t get any of it. I am not a construction executive and I am not a doctor, so when I give money for the improvement of infrastructure in hospitals I have to rely on the professionals to take care of the details.”
Rabbi Litzman said in his letter that Finance Ministry officials were trying to renege on agreements with the Health Ministry. “The situation is not in accord with our agreement with your ministry. I would appreciate your instructing your ministry’s personnel to transfer the promised money so that the necessary changes can be made in the hospitals,” he wrote.