Office of the Ombudsman: Sharp increase in number of complaints about Medical Cannabis Unit

New data of the Office of the State Comptroller and Ombudsman show that in the course of 3 years there was a 600% increase in the number of complaints about the Medical Cannabis Unit in the Ministry of Health

  •  In 2019, the Office of the Ombudsman received 518 complaints (this year has not yet ended) relating to medical cannabis compared with only 74 complaints in 2017.

  •  92% of the complaints were found justified.

  •  In one case, a patient waited months to receive medical cannabis because his application was not typed into the computer.

The State Comptroller and Ombudsman, Matanyahu Englman: "I consider the strengthening of the social aspect to be of great importance, as well as the duty of audit to act as mouthpiece for communities that are vulnerable and deserving of special attention. We are seeing here data that reveal the genuine distress of patients requiring medical relief. The professional staff of the Office of the Ombudsman examine the matter in depth and work with all the relevant bodies to improve the service provided to the citizen".

New data of the Office of the State Comptroller and Ombudsman reveal that in the last three years, there has been a sharp increase of about 600% in the number of complaints received by the Office concerning the Medical Cannabis Unit in the Ministry of Health (the Unit). According to the data, while in 2017 only 74 complaints about the Unit were filed with the Office, in 2018 the number more than doubled and stood at 173 complaints. Since the beginning of 2019 until today (this year has not yet ended), the Office has already received 518 complaints about the Unit (an increase of about 600%), and 92% of the complaints have been found justified.

According to the Office of the State Comptroller, most of the complainants are patients requiring medical cannabis who complain about the many difficulties encountered by them in their attempt to receive appropriate service from the Unit. 

Types of complaints 

  1. Long delays in handling of applications: Delays in the handling of new applications, delays in the handling of applications to renew permits that interrupt the sequence of treatment, and delays in the handling of applications to increase dosage. 

  2. Faulty computerized correlation - Difficulties in transmitting documents to the Unit, difficulties in processing the documents in the Unit and hitches in sending permits and issuing instructions to patients after approval of the applications.

  3. Failure to handle applications lacking supporting documents without notifying the patients or doctors of the deficiency in real time.

  4. Lack of transparency and information regarding the status of an application and failure on the part of the Unit to update patients.

  5. Lack of cannabis products at the pharmacists.

  6. Lack of doctors permitted to issue permits for the use of medical cannabis and defects in the publications of the Ministry of Health listing the doctors who may be contacted for this purpose, etc.

In one case, the Office of the Ombudsman investigated the complaint of a person suffering from multiple sclerosis who complained that his application for medical cannabis, which had been filed several months earlier, had not yet been handled. The Office's investigation disclosed that the complainant's application had been received by the Unit but not typed into the computer system. Following the Office's inquiry, the application was handled and the permit was subsequently issued. However, it then became apparent that a mistaken ID number had been written in the permit and following further intervention by the Office, a rectified permit was issued enabling the complainant to receive medical cannabis to ease his suffering.

In another case, the Office investigated a complaint concerning the confirmation of an instruction for dispensing medical cannabis issued to a pharmacy. The complainant claimed that for a long period of time he had not received the issuing instruction despite the fact that the Unit's call centre had informed him that his permit had been approved. Following the intervention of the Office of the Ombudsman, an issuing instruction, which should have been dispatched much earlier, was sent to the complainant.

The Ombudsman emphasizes that the Office examines every complaint individually and assists the complainants in exercising their rights. The Office regularly points out to the Ministry of Health the systematic defects disclosed by the investigation of complaints and monitors the actions taken by the Ministry of Health to rectify the defects.