All physiotherapy students at universities in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Safed and Ariel will strike starting Sunday over the approval to open additional training departments even as many graduates remain unemployed.
The Council of Higher Education approved the opening of more physiotherapy departments and the Israel Students Association announced the strike on Thursday. They noted that the training of students in the health fields is carried out in academic institutions and with the responsibility of the CHE.
The latest institution to receive CHE approval to open a new department is the Kiryat Academic College.
In June, physiotherapists and physiotherapy students demonstrated outside the Education Ministry’s Jerusalem headquarters to protest the fact that they have difficulty finding work. As the academic year begins and there have been no improvements in the situation, the student association said it would resume its struggle. The group said that in 2012, only 50 out of a total of 500 graduates found jobs, adding that they fear thousands of physiotherapists will find themselves without work.
The association also complained that in schools of physiotherapy, large classroom sizes are adversely effecting the level of teaching.
In 2007, a report that assessed physiotherapist students found even then a shortage of workplaces for professionals. Authors of the report had recommended that no new programs be opened and that the number of students in existing programs not be expanded. But the recommendations were not implemented.
There are 4,000 registered physiotherapists (most of them women) in the country, and 400 to 450 more graduate each year. Most new graduates find themselves unemployed.
One thousand hours of practical work is required with patients in health funds, hospitals and elsewhere, but there are not enough places, pay is minimal and many receive only partial training, the association said.
Asked to comment, the Health Ministry said on Thursday that it “has an interest in preserving highquality manpower in the various paramedical fields, thus it is in contact with the CHE in an effort to advise and assist in arranging the field of practical work in physiotherapy and other professions.”
Health Ministry representatives have participated, along with CHE representatives, in a number of meetings with physiotherapy students, the ministry spokeswoman said.
The students were told that it was very important to “map and set standards for clinical training in physiotherapy and other paramedical professions to ensure they will get proper training worthy of their degrees.”
The ministry will “continue to collect data from medical institutions where clinical training goes on, and these will be presented to a committee of experts advising the CHE that is now being set up.”
The committee will also be asked to recommend solutions for problems, but it will take time – longer than the students demand, the ministry concluded.