The number of physicians, nurses, dentists and dental technicians continued to decline in 2012, according to a Health Ministry annual report on the health professions issued on Tuesday.

The 224-page document compared the medical manpower figures with those in the OECD, of which Israel is a member, and was based on data banks in the ministry, the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Israel Defense Forces, the Civil Service Commission and most of the hospitals around the country.

The rate of medical school graduates in Israel is relatively low, only 4.1 per 100,000 residents.

The rate of MDs up to the age of 65 fell to 263 per 1,000 residents compared to 713 at the end of 2000 – a 12 percent decline. The slowing in immigration, including that of physicians, is partially responsible for this in addition to the rise in the proportion of MDs over 65.

However, 350 new MDs got their licenses compared to 300 a year a decade ago or more, because medical school classes in existing medical schools have expanded and a new medical school, in Safed, was opened but has not yet produced graduates. In addition, the number of Israeli medical graduates from foreign medical schools rose from 302 in 2011 to 307 the following year. Most of those who graduated abroad studied in Hungary, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Italy.

The share of women continues to increase, to 42% up to the age of 65 and 47% of doctors up to age 45, compared to 39% and 43%, respectively, in 2000. More physicians decide to go into medical specialties than to be general practitioners. The rate of specialists was 1.75 up to the age of 65 per 1,000 residents compared to 1.53 in 2000, a 14% increase.

A little over half of the specialists studied internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, gynecology/ obstetrics and psychiatry. Women were represented more than average in psychiatry of children and adolescents, anatomy and pathology, family medicine, endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, geriatrics, oncology, hematology, pediatrics, psychiatry of adults and dermatology.

As for nurses, there are fewer here than the OECD average. Only 11.4 nurses graduate nursing school per 100,000 residents in 2011 compared to 42.8 as registered in the OECD average.

The average age of Israeli nurses is also rising.

Yet 1,206 registered nurses received their licenses in 2012 compared to 998 in the previous year.

Active encouragement of students to go into nursing and generous scholarships are helping to change the trend, the report said.

The proportion of dentists per capita continued to decline in the past decade, and their average age is rising, but the number of dentists per 1,000 is nevertheless higher than the OECD average. Thirty-nine percent of dentists are women. A quarter of the dentists graduated from Israeli dental schools, compared to 38% who studied in Eastern Europe, 25% in Jordan, Syria and Egypt and 11% from the Americas and Western Europe. Slightly more dentists are studying for dental specialties.

There are fewer dental technicians under the age of 65 – 0.46 per 1,000 residents in 2012 compared to 0.46 in 2000. The rate of assistant pharmacists also declined, from 0.16 per 1,000 in the year 2000 to 0.10 in 2012.

But there is an increase in the number of pharmacists, psychologists, dental assistants, medical lab workers, optometrists, clinical geneticists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, communications specialists and clinical dietitians, according to the report.

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