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Executive Summary

A comparison of the average for the EU-15 states and the Israeli Health Ministry’s statistics for 2010 reveals that Israel’s rate of working physicians is one of the lowest in the Western world.

 

The physician shortage is particularly noticeable in certain medical specialties, where the medical staff is no longer able to treat the patients according to the highest standards. In a number of specialties – including anesthesiology, intensive care (general, pediatric, pulmonary, and cardiology), and neonatology - the shortage has become acute, and the outlook for these specialties is grim.

Although medical school is still considered to be one of the most popular academic courses of study for university students, its luster has dimmed, and it no longer has the same stature as it did in the past. A medical career demands considerable sacrifice and dedication, and thus today’s students may be reluctant to choose it over more lucrative professions, which have less of an impact on their personal lives. Medicine must “compete” for top students with other academic fields, such as high-tech, engineering, and more.

Burnout is cited as the leading cause of physicians leaving the field as well as of the physician shortage. Even a decade ago, 60% of family doctors, 39% of pediatricians, and 72% of medical clinic administrators suffered from extensive burnout. The burnout rates increased significantly over the years.

Inevitably, inadequate compensation leads to a physician shortage. In 2011, the average hourly wage for physicians was merely 40 NIS. Non-specialist physicians earn even less, and their average hourly wage is 34.6 NIS. Residents are the worst off, earning an average of 29.5 NIS an hour.

Thus, physicians’ salaries serve as the key deterrent against their remaining in the public health system for an extended period of time. This is especially true for the profession’s future generation, the residents, who – in spite of their many years of training, their long work hours, and the huge physical, emotional, and intellectual commitment they make to their patients – earn less than 30 NIS per hour.

The number of Israeli physicians emigrating abroad has increased at an alarming rate. For instance, over the past decade, some 20% (!) of all anesthesiologists and anesthesiology residents emigrated to the United States, Canada, and other countries. In absolute numbers, this means 62 out of 310 physicians in the field. An additional eight physicians reported that they intended to emigrate in the near future.

The physician shortage leads, inter alia, to a critical shortage of hospital beds. For instance, in early 2010, Israel’s internal medicine wards lacked 620 hospital beds, which would have required an additional 176 physician slots.

Additional negative effects of the physician shortage include a potential drop in the quality of medical care, violence by patients and their families against the medical staff, and ever-growing gaps between the health services provided to different population sectors.

The existing standards are obsolete and have not been updated in decades. The Treasury and the Health Ministry must immediately allocate 1,000 additional physician slots – including in specialties where the crisis is particularly acute. Furthermore, a joint professional task force - comprised of physicians and employers - should be charged with revamping the current policy.

 

Thus, physicians’ salaries serve as the key deterrent against their remaining in the public health system for an extended period of time. This is especially true for the profession’s future generation, the residents, who – in spite of their many years of training, their long work hours, and the huge physical, emotional, and intellectual commitment they make to their patients – earn less than 30 NIS per hour.

The number of Israeli physicians emigrating abroad has increased at an alarming rate. For instance, over the past decade, some 20% (!) of all anesthesiologists and anesthesiology residents emigrated to the United States, Canada, and other countries. In absolute numbers, this means 62 out of 310 physicians in the field. An additional eight physicians reported that they intended to emigrate in the near future.

The physician shortage leads, inter alia, to a critical shortage of hospital beds. For instance, in early 2010, Israel’s internal medicine wards lacked 620 hospital beds, which would have required an additional 176 physician slots.

Additional negative effects of the physician shortage include a potential drop in the quality of medical care, violence by patients and their families against the medical staff, and ever-growing gaps between the health services provided to different population sectors.

The existing standards are obsolete and have not been updated in decades. The Treasury and the Health Ministry must immediately allocate 1,000 additional physician slots – including in specialties where the crisis is particularly acute. Furthermore, a joint professional task force - comprised of physicians and employers - should be charged with revamping the current policy.