IDF medical care insufficient, watchdog report finds

The “hardships” faced by troops “may cause some of the soldiers not to receive the medical treatment they need,”

May 16, 2017 16:01
2 minute read.
idf soldier wounded

IDF soldiers carry a comrade on a stretcher, who was wounded during an operation in Gaza, outside northern Gaza July 20, 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The annual State Comptroller report released on Tuesday found a high level of soldier dissatisfaction with medical care provided by the IDF, a problem it links to the cancellation of outsourced care.

Between June 2015 and May 2016, the State Comptroller’s Office inspected the medical services of the IDF, focusing on the provision of care provided to conscripted soldiers. It found that the decision to cancel the outsourcing of medical services to soldiers serving at the Kirya military headquarters and Tel Hashomer bases after only three years had a significant impact on the quality of care provided.

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The decision to outsource medical services for soldiers serving at those two bases in order to focus on medical treatment for combat soldiers serving in periphery areas such as the West Bank was made in February 2010 by former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yair Naveh. In July 2013, it was decided to restore medical services in the Kirya.

During the audit, the State Comptroller’s Office conducted a survey using questionnaires distributed to 801 combat soldiers and paramedics. The survey found that more than half (51%) of those surveyed are generally dissatisfied with the IDF’s medical service, with over half (60%) of those dissatisfied with the service indicating that there were problems with availability.

The report also indicated long waiting times to meet with a mental health professional, and found that the average waiting time to book an elective appointment for both a primary physician or to receive a referral to a specialist was found to take about two to three weeks for combat (14 days) and non-combat soldiers (21 days.) The survey also found that 32% of soldiers who received a referral to a specialist waited between two to four weeks to meet with that specialist, while another 30% indicated that they waited as long as three months.

In addition to a long wait time to meet with a medical professional, soldiers had difficulty getting through by phone to a clinic, particularly in the morning. The difficulty was so substantial – a wait time of between 45 minutes and one hour – that 45,000 calls to clinics by soldiers were abandoned before they could speak to anyone.

These and other hardships soldiers confront in trying to receive medical services “may cause some of the soldiers not to receive the medical treatment they need,” the report said. Moreover, follow- up by the chief medical officer of referral of soldiers to specialist physicians is lacking, the report found.

The report recommended that the waiting period for an elective appointment with a primary care physician be no longer than one week, and that there be a system that allows the technology and logistics directorate to receive computerized data from all IDF clinics on the waiting times of soldiers who want to meet with a doctor.

In response to the report, the IDF said that while there is no binding law in Israel that limits the amount of time it can take to meet with a physician, Deputy Chief Medical Corps officer Brig.-Gen.

Dudu Dagan decided that in non-urgent cases, the waiting time should be capped at one week. Furthermore, to reduce the long phone waiting times, the IDF said it would allocate 110% more resources to the matter.

Unlike regular citizens, by law, soldiers can only receive medical services from the medical corps and not from clinics of their choice.

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