The Health Ministry has done an about-face in its policy of not recognizing auxiliary medical professionals – physicians’ assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs).
Prof. Arnon Afek, head of the ministry’s Medical Administration and previously deputy director of Sheba Medical Center, stated Thursday that his office was working hard to accept the professionals, who in the US and other countries expand medical and nursing services at a lower cost than physicians and registered nurses.
The Jerusalem Post raised the idea of recognizing PAs and NPs more than two years ago, after it received complaints from new immigrants from the US who had worked in these professions but had no ministry recognition and were therefore unable to find employment in their fields.
The Post contacted ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu and Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman, both of whom said there was “no need” for PAs and NPs here.
Even though physician's assistants don't study as long as physicians, they ease the burden examining and assessing patients, diagnosing injuries and illnesses and providing some treatment – all the time under the direction of physicians. As for nurse practitioners, they strudy even more years that registered nurses and perform a variety of tasks that used to be the responsibility solely of doctors
As there is a severe shortage of doctors and nurses in Israel, the ministry has finally recognized that PAs and NPs can stretch out the existing professional manpower.
Afek made this statement at a conference Thursday marking the 60th anniversary of the first class to graduate from the Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical School.
Chairing the conference were HU Medical Faculty dean Prof. Eran Leitersdorf and alumni group chairman and anesthesiologist Prof. Benjamin Drenger. Some 1,000 graduates from over the decades were in attendance, as were 100 current medical students.
There was a discussion on the long 2011 doctors’ strike that raised salaries and gave incentives to work in the periphery and specialties with inadequate manpower.
More veteran physicians said the Treasury’s insistence that all doctors use a time clock when they began and ended work had turned out to be “harmful,” as many doctors said they refused to work longer hours for which they would not get paid. Before the introduction of the time clock, they hadn’t looked at their watches to find out when to go home, they said.
However, young physicians and medical students said the time clock was beneficial because it gave them more time to sleep and be with their families.
A Health Page feature on the conference will appear on Sunday, December 16.