The Health Ministry announced on Thursday that it would close down the Neve Yaakov psychiatric hospital, one day after police detained at least 70 staff members for questioning in connection with allegations of long-term physical and sexual abuse of patients. Several of the employees were formally arrested.
The hospital has a staff of 100 and houses 160 patients aged 20-70, many of whom are considered difficult cases. The center became the target of a yearlong police investigation, conducted with the assistance of the ministries of health and welfare, after family and friends of patients brought their suspicions to the authorities.
As the first step for closing Neve Yaakov, the ministry has begun transferring the patients to the other 14 psychiatric institutions throughout Israel.
Some 150 police officers participated in the raid Wednesday morning. Police emphasized that not all of those detained were suspected of committing acts of abuse and that many were simply being held for questioning.
“This is a case of physical and sexual abuse, neglect and sub-par treatment,” Petah Tikva Police Chief Sigal Bar-Zvi told Ynet. “After the conclusion of our investigation and the collection of evidence from the detainees, we will decide whom arrest.”
“There is a conspiracy of silence,” she added. “The investigation is difficult and complex.”
“We received complaints of physical abuse,” an anonymous police official told Maariv. “A portion of the inmates suffered severe burns, some injuries and some light wounds. A portion of the staff performed the acts, but other staff-members knew and did nothing to prevent the abuse.”
Channel 2 News reported on Thursday that after the publication of the reports on Neve Yaakov and the subsequent police investigation, sanitation officials from the Petah Tikva municipality arrived to inspect the hospital’s health standards. According to the report, they found pigeons and cats in the kitchen.
One police source said that the sanitation department inspection had diagnosed a “serious threat of poisoning as a result of criminal neglect.”
Gabe Fisher contributed to this report.