Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center will restrict admissions and visits by African refugees out
of concern for the spread of infectious diseases to other patients – a move that sparked condemnation from the Health Ministry and doctors across Israel.
After receiving a letter which outlined the new policies which are intended to protect patients and hospital staff, doctors called Director General Gabi Barbash's decision "patient care apartheid."
Barbash's decision came after dozens of cases where infectious diseases such as tuberculosis were discovered among the African migrant population.
In his letter to the hospital staff, Barbash said that the hospital will not allow Africans into the hospital as visitors. However, any patient of African origin who requires hospitalization will receive a mandatory chest x-ray in order to rule out tuberculosis.
Criticism over Barbash's decision was soon to follow, as doctors voiced their opposition to the controversial policies. The Health Ministry further criticized Barbash's choice, calling it "Barbash's racist policy." A ministry official said that "a hospital in Israel – a country that went through the Holocaust – cannot possibly use discriminatory policies against migrants on the basis of their skin color."
Since the implementation of Barbash's new policies, three cases of tuberculosis have been discovered out of the 30 migrants who were tested for the disease. Despite the alarming figures, Sourasky hospital staff continued to protest against the decision to separate pregnant women, women giving birth and newborn babies of African migrants from the general population.
One of the options suggested by Barbash included dividing one of the hospital wards into two sections: Israeli women are to be hospitalized on one side of the ward, while pregnant African women will be sent to another section.
"We can't isolate African women who were cleared of infectious diseases in a separate ward on the basis of their skin color," said one doctor adding that "the thought of sending white women to one side and black women to the other side is just sickening."
Another doctor said that "this decision is a terrible one. We are all angry and embarrassed about it. It contradicts the fundamental principles medicine is founded on."
"We treat every patient in the same way regardless of their religion or skin color. Isolating healthy women in a tiny ward which resembles a ghetto is inhumane," she said.