Doctor and patient (illustrative)..
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
There is a serious shortage of family physicians and it will get worse soon, as 40% are over the age of 60, the Association of Family Physicians warned the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee on Monday.
Prof. Shlomi Vinker told the MKs that the specialty gets only 70 residents each year, while 250 are needed and “there is no one to replace them when they retire.” Soon, he predicted, doctors will have only four minutes to see each patient instead of seven minutes today.
Dr. Alexander Levin, head of the community doctors’ division in Clalit Health Services, added that “this is an emergency situation.
Family physicians spend 60% of their time on bureaucracy, and only 40% on actually examining and treating patients. “The burden on family physicians is getting heavier. As a result, I am forced to send many for [unnecessary] tests instead of dealing with their medical problems, because I have many more patients waiting outside the door,” he said.
Committee chairman Eli Alalouf said there are 1,814 patients for each family physician in Maccabi Health Services, 1,730 in Clalit and in Meuhedet and Leumit more than 1,000. The committee will meet again soon to discuss the situation with heads of the Health and Finance ministries. “The situation is worrisome and requires systematic treatment. If we prepare properly, it will even save money. I fear that doctors will leave the community to work in the hospitals, which will make it even worse,” said Alalouf.
Dr. Niva Azuz, head of medical administration in the Health Ministry, said that “we announced incentive payments for health funds that open new manpower slots for family physicians. We hope we will have budgets to implement this. We are also reducing the Education Ministry’s demands for medical approval for pupils... to reduce the pressure on the doctors.”
MK Manuel Trajtenberg said he fears the situation would worsen, because the Health Ministry will have to make cuts as part of the NIS 1 billion reduction of funds to all the ministries [due to payments to ultra-Orthodox causes and for evacuating Amona.
The best way to reduce costs of the health system is to strengthen community medicine, and part of this is to give more time to the patients and bring in more nurses to help the doctors, said Prof.
Anthony Heiman, head of Meuhedet Health Services’ family medicine department. “We are in a real crisis,” he said.