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Friday, January 18, 2013

Israel Orders Well-Baby Clinics To Treat All Pregnant Women, Regardless Of Residency Status

Illegal residents in Israel
Source: Haaretz 
By Dan Even 

The Health Ministry has announced that well-baby clinics will have to provide medical supervision services for pregnant women who have no legal residency status in Israel.

The ministry has released new instructions that, for the first time, regulate the requirement to treat pregnant women without legal status in well-baby clinics - including those operated by both the state and local authorities. It does not apply to those run by health maintenance organizations.

The new regulations state that the clinics are to provide medical supervision for these women, including those considered high risk. They were previously sent to hospitals for supervision and follow-up.

This is another step in the ministry's plan to guarantee proper medical services to those without legal residency in Israel. Two weeks ago, a new clinic opened in Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station area for asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and others without any legal status in Israel. The clinic is meant to provide emergency services for those who previously had little choice but to go to hospital emergency rooms.

The changes have been implemented in the wake of controversial instructions formulated by the director of Ichilov Hospital, Tel Aviv, last July. The medical center denied African migrants access unless they were in need of medical attention or hospitalization.

Ichilov director Dr. Gabi Barbash cited the threat of infectious diseases from such visitors, though the ministry quickly softened the rules. In response, the Health Ministry established a committee to study the matter of providing care for those migrants without legal residency. The latest rules are part of these recommendations. The committee is headed by Dr. Rivka Sheffer, the head of the ministry's Tel Aviv region.

The ministry will implement the decision by refusing to reimburse hospitals for routine pregnancy care and tests for such women unless they are referred to the well-baby clinics.

The new rules require women without legal residency status to receive equal treatment, the same as that provided to Israelis under the national health insurance law.

In addition, all women who come from countries with high rates of HIV infection will be tested, so any necessary treatment against HIV can be provided to their newborn babies. These HIV tests are not routinely given to Israeli women.

Women who come from regions with high rates of tuberculosis will also receive a chest X-ray after giving birth for disease diagnosis.

The new rules also set out procedures for providing the proper support and treatment for those women who were the victims of sexual assault, whether in Israel or before their arrival.

Children of illegal immigrants and foreign workers play at a kindergarten in Tel Aviv

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