In an effort to bring 150 more young physicians to work at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba over the next five years, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee has decided to allocate over NIS 1 million a year.

Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said on Sunday that the program is aimed at narrowing the health gap between the center and the periphery of the country. His ministry has worked together with the Jewish Agency on the program, which will provide incentives for medical students, interns and residents at Soroka to remain at the Negev hospital.

The region has a shortage of some 120 physicians compared to the standard in the center of the country. As tens of thousands of soldiers and their families are expected to move to the Negev as a new large military base is established, by 2020 more than 165 additional physicians will be needed, said Shalom.

The doctors and medical students who are in the Beersheba area and remain there to work will get help in paying rent in addition to scholarships and assistance to their spouses to find work. Those who study specialties abroad and return to the Negev will also receive financial help.

A mobile MRI machine has been brought to Dimona, which also is the site of a center for emergency medicine so patients don’t have to go to Beersheba for urgent care.

Shalom noted that closing the healthcare gap will help attract more singles and families to the Negev. A 300-bed hospital is being planned in Lehavim, some 15 kilometers north of Beersheba; within 20 years, it is expected to expand to 900 beds.

The new medical school in Safed, he concluded, has already brought new residents to the Galilee.

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