To summarize this sub-chapter, in recent years the claim has become widely accepted within the healthcare system and beyond, that the percentage of physicians in Israel is higher than the average in the Western countries. This claim stems from the accepted comparison of the percentage of the medical license holders under 65 in Israel to the average percentage of practicing physicians in the OECD countries. As illustrated, the methodology used in this comparison, has two pitfalls:
- Erroneous selection of the comparison group, which includes countries that are severely lagging economically in comparison with Israel and the rest of the developed countries, or countries that do not share Israel’s set of values and laws regarding social legislation, including universal health insurance. The inclusion of these countries significantly lowers the Western average, which serves as a point of reference for Israel’s data.
- Disparity between the organization’s definitions and Israel’s official data – the Israeli datum relates to the percentage of medical license holders under 65, which is higher than the percentage of actual practicing physicians – the datum to which the OECD country average relates. As illustrated, the disparity artificially raises the Israeli datum.
To correct these distortions, we have made a new comparison based on the EU15 country average, and on up-to-date information published by the Ministry of Health in 2010, according to which the percentage of practicing physicians in Israel is 2.8 per 1,000 persons. According to this data, the percentage of practicing physicians in Israel is among the lowest in the Western world, contrary to the mistaken impression hitherto created.
This disheartening datum should be viewed as the starting point for any future debate regarding the state of Israel’s healthcare system, especially the state of the human resources at its disposal. If the basic presumption has thus far been that there is an excess of doctors in Israel, policymakers must now be prepared to reconsider the future of the healthcare system based on the assumption that there is a significant shortage of human resources in this field with all that entails: the growing crises in particular medical fields, and the extreme shortage of specialists therein; the difficult situation in the periphery due to the unbalanced geographical distribution of physicians; the high percentage of physicians approaching retirement compared to the minority of new physicians entering the system. These are all severe problems resulting from the general shortage in physicians, which has thus far been unknown to Israel’s policymakers.