Health Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu promised the Knesset Finance Committee on Monday that 1,300 medical students would graduate every year to cope with the growing shortage of physicians.

He did not say in what year exactly that number of students would graduate, but apparently they have already begun their studies – with a minimum seven years needed to produce an MD.

A major bottleneck in producing more doctors, he explained, is that there aren’t enough beds and clinical physician-teachers to educate them. Gamzu is trying to reduce the number of clinical teaching hours for residents, he said, even though it poses the risk of a decline in quality of specialists. Care must be taken to ensure that this doesn’t happen, the director-general added.

Bayit Yehudi MK and committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky said that, “Israel’s health system is excellent, but it must improve even more.”

He praised Health Minister Yael German for having “many positive qualities and a good head, who will know how to do better for the nation and cut the red tape” in the health system.

German replied that the country is in difficult times economically, especially during the next two years. But “despite this, significant increases have been made to the health system.”

In the coming years, royalties from natural gas finds will be used for the educational, welfare and health systems.

German said the committee “must ensure that geriatric and nursing institutions get some of it.”

She added that while the OECD rates Israel’s health system as one of the “best five” in the world, many doctors are working in private practice in addition to their hospital rotations.

She promised that the committee charged to look into proposed private medical service (Shara) in the government and Clalit Health Services hospitals will be “balanced and independent.”

German said that foreigners receiving health care in public hospitals are “a problem,” because it comes at the expense of Israelis waiting to be treated.

German noted that 400 to 500 Israelis commit suicide in a given year and 6,000 more attempt it. She promised that the Health, Education and Welfare Ministry and Social Service Ministry will present to the government a program to “make war on suicides.”

Gamzu said that 2,500 nursing students are in the pipeline and within two months, a new nursing school program will be approved at Ariel University.

Former Knesset speaker and now Likud MK Reuven Rivlin warned that Magen David Adom – the ambulance, firstaid and blood supply organization – is in a serious financial crisis. He urged that the volunteer emergency service be helped and not taken for granted.

MDA officials asked for NIS 20.5 million for general maintenance of equipment, their debt a result of inadequate donations.

“The state doesn’t help MDA maintain its emergency network even though it is dependent on MDA in times of emergency and ordinary times,” MDA officials said. “It pays only for certain services.”

Rivlin additionally called for the integration of Arab physicians into the health system who “don’t enter the system not because they are not professional, but because they are Arabs.”

Meanwhile, the Israel Dental Association headed by Dr.

Yitzhak Chen launched a campaign on Sunday that called on parents of children under the age of 12 to demand the youngsters’ right to be treated by private dentists, as well as from health fund dentists, under the law providing free basic dental care to children.

The protest campaign, which is aimed at German and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, will be run over social networks and via Google.

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