JERUSALEM (VINnews) — In another twist in Israel’s attempts to regain control over the coronavirus, Professor Ronni Gamzu, the director-general of Sourasky (Ichilov) Medical Center, was appointed Israel’s coronavirus project manager by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein after midnight Wednesday night according to a Jerusalem Post report.
Gamzu, who like putative candidate Gabi Barabash is also a former Health Ministry director-general, was praised by Netanyahu for his work on developing the Magen Avot Ve’imahot program, a plan to protect Israel’s senior living facilities from COVID-19, which is still in use.
The appointment of Gamzu came after Prof. Barbash rejected Netanyahu’s offer following a battle over the powers to be invested in the project manager.
Ironically, Gamzu had praised Barbash as the right person for the role. “The appointment of Prof. Gabi Barbash as the coronavirus project manager is excellent,” Gamzu wrote in a social media post. “This is the right man in the right place! This is the best decision the government has made since the start of the crisis.” He described Barbash as “determined,” “detail-oriented” and as a person who “knows how to give respect, but also how to get angry.” However Gamzu differs from Barabash regarding the effectiveness of lockdowns, preferring to focus efforts on preventing crowds and public gatherings.
Barbash had demanded that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Health Minister Edelstein both come to an agreement about his appointment by Wednesday. There were reportedly disagreements between the two about who Barbash would be subordinate to and in the end he decided to relinquish the position. He is not the first person to decline the appointment since a number of other candidates also rejected the position fearing that they would not have the necessary authority to be successful.
The concept of project manager requires supervision of an emergency coronavirus authority that would be capable of taking full responsibility for the pandemic and removing responsibility for test evaluation and contact tracing from the beleaguered public health services. This person would coordinate the management of real-time data, logistics and procurement, as well as coordinating between the health funds, hospitals, police, Home Front Command, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and all bodies involved in fighting the pandemic.
“The most important thing is that the manager will have all the responsibility and authority he needs to manage the pandemic,” said Prof. Eli Waxman, who was the prime minister’s No. 1 consultant on the coronavirus crisis during the first wave. “I am very worried about the fact that you had very good candidates who had all the required qualifications and they were not interested because the government refused to transfer to them the required responsibility.”