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The Israel Medical Association has voiced its support for a private members' bill initiated by MK Arye Eldad (National Union) that would prevent doctors from receiving medical licenses if they lacked the ability to speak and understand basic Hebrew.
The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee on Monday passed the bill for its second and third readings in the plenum.
The explanatory material that accompanies the bill states that anyone who graduated from an Israeli medical school or studied medicine outside Israel but did not work as a physician in that country has to undergo an internship in an Israeli hospital as a condition to get his license.
However, Medical students who study abroad and worked in medicine abroad are not required to know even elementary Hebrew.
Thus there are Israeli physicians that do not have basic Hebrew language skills.
Israeli Arabs who study at one of the four Israeli university medical schools study in Hebrew and are fluent, but those who study abroad - along with new immigrants - may not know Hebrew adequately.
Setting such a requirement, Eldad said, would ensure better communication between doctor and patient and improve medical care. Until now, only nurses have been required to take a basic Hebrew-language exam to get their licenses.
IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman - who made aliya from the former
Soviet Union some two decades ago, said it was clear that despite the
growing shortage of physicians and the need to absorb more from
countries around the world, it was impossible to give a medical license
to those who didn't have a basic knowledge of Hebrew. He said inability
to communicate in Hebrew would "come at the expense of patients, and
even endanger lives."