Comptroller: Senior Citizens Will Face a Severe Problem During a Disaster

Comptroller Matanyahu Englman attends a Knesset committee meeting. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

​The State Control Committee, chaired by MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), convened on Tuesday to discuss a special report of the Office of the Comptroller on challenges and objectives in providing service to the elderly.

At the start of the meeting, Chairman MK Levy commented on the earthquake that occurred on the previous day in Turkey and Syria and was also felt in Israel, saying: “There is no coordination today between the government ministries regarding preparations for earthquakes. Every city engineer decides the criteria for himself. The Prime Minister’s Office, over the generations, has not succeeded in synchronizing between the ministries. The central government shifts the issue to the local authorities, because it’s very easy and there’s no money. I have demanded to form a government fund urgently. I will not let go of the issue. We must be prepared for this difficult natural challenge.”

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said prior to the report’s presentation: “The report that will be issued today, and yesterday’s earthquakes, should awaken the Government to take urgent action, including for senior citizens. Yesterday Israel’s citizens felt the terrible disaster that struck Turkey and Syria and exacted a toll of thousands of dead and injured. In the spirit of the report of the Office of the Ombudsman about the elderly that is due to be issued today, I would like to talk about the impact that such a disaster will have on our parents and grandparents. The report we issued on care of senior citizens during the COVID-19 crisis showed that as of July 2021, senior citizens will face a severe problem during a disaster.

Very troubling findings arise from the report: The Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs did not succeed in contacting 40 percent of senior citizens. The Ministry for Social Equality did not map the needs of 66 percent of senior citizens in Israel. In general, it is not clear how many seniors there are in Israel—there is a gap of 264,000 senior citizens between the records of the Central Bureau of Statistics and the records of the Population and Immigration Authority.”

Dr. Esther Ben-Chaim, Director of the Office of the Ombudsman, presented the main points of the report, which addresses the period between 2019 and mid-2022: “The role of the Office of the Ombudsman is to handle complaints from the public at large, but particularly from special populations that require special attention. During the COVID-19 period we saw how the elderly population was harmed, and it needed attention. We reflect how the public felt from its own perspective.”

According to the report, as presented by Dr. Ben-Chaim, 20% of all complainants are elderly citizens, while the percentage of senior citizens in the general population is 12.2%. The number of complaints they submitted in this period stands at 12,882, of which 62% were submitted by elderly men.

The report indicates that the agencies regarding which the discourse was most negative were the Israel Postal Company, the HMOs — largely during the COVID-19 vaccination period — and the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety, with an emphasis on issuing disabled parking permits. Sixteen percent of all complaints against the National Insurance Institute were submitted by senior citizens (988 complaints), and 38% of all complaints against Amidar were submitted by senior citizens.

Committee Chair MK Levy summed up: “The committee requests that the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs study the report and take appropriate action. I also expect Amidar to conduct a dialogue with the State Comptroller’s Office in order to review the nature of the complaints and take corrective action. I am asking the long arm of the committee, the Office of the Comptroller, to continue to examine the audited agencies, and if someone fails to meet the requirements, we will hold a follow-up debate and demand answers. We must take action and tend to this population.”​

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