Sheba Medical Center director-general Prof. Zeev Rotstein got his knuckles
rapped by Knesset Education Committee chairman Alex Miller on Sunday for “taking
the wrong path” to increase the number of foreign and Israeli medical students
here while expanding Israeli academic prestige, but he added that the hospital
head nevertheless had good intentions.
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Miller had called the urgent
special session at the request of Kadima MK Rachel Adato, a trained physician
and lawyer who castigated Rotstein for his nearly unilateral and suddenly
publicized program combining two years of academic studies at the University of
Cyprus with two years of clinical studies at Sheba at Tel Hashomer for
bachelor’s degree graduates. She said she had learned of the would-be program
after seeing a newspaper ad.
The Israel Beiteinu MK gave Rotstein six
weeks to coordinate his intentions and plans with all other institutions and
players who need to be involved, including presidents of the five universities
(Bar-Ilan University’s medical school will open next year in Safed), the Council
for Higher Education and the Health Ministry, if Sheba wanted to get full
The medical degree program is formally supervised by the
University of London’s St. George Hospital, but the dozens of students expecting
to start in September will spend their time only in Cyprus and Israel’s largest
medical center without even seeing London, Adato charged.
She said there
was no guarantee that students would study pathology, anatomy and other vital
academic subjects they would be required to complete if they graduated from
topflight Israeli medical schools, all of which are run and supervised by public
universities whose medical students are subsidized by the state.
complained that the council had not been asked for any authorization of the
foreign university programs even though this was required by law.
result of subsidization and numbers limited by the Council for Higher
Education’s planning and budgeting committee, only the best are accepted to the
public medical schools here.
Since hundreds of Israeli young people
rejected for studies still want to be physicians, they pay high tuition (tens of
thousands of euro per year) at academic institutions in eastern Europe, hoping
to get higher level clinical studies in faculty-supervised Israeli medical
But the number of “teaching beds” and senior physicians at the
best university- affiliated hospitals is already too small for Israeli medical
There is a limit to how many students can be trained by senior
teaching physicians, agreed Israeli medical school deans. Such beds are an
“Israeli natural resource” that belong to all institutions, and Sheba should not
grab them for its own use, she charged.
Adato claimed that Rotstein’s
program could lead down a slippery slope and introduce private medical colleges
with high tuitions to benefit Israeli medical centers. While this would raise
foreign money for hospitals, it would ape the phenomenon of numerous private
colleges that give law degrees “on a lower level, reducing the quality of the
profession,” she said.
The MK ridiculed the letter from Health Ministry
Roni Gamzu, which stated that the ministry favored
the program in principle because a significant number of students were Jews and
potential candidates for aliya, when this had not been proven.
ministry commented later that it was now in the process of examining the
proposal, and that, at present, most of the large Israeli hospitals participate
in academic teaching of Israeli medical students from Hungary for a year, and
that the Sheba program would double this to two years.
The question is
whether approval by the council is necessary for Sheba’s recognition as a
“branch” of the Cypriot or British universities for teaching its medical
students for two years.
Rotstein, who nevertheless was praised by Adato
for his highly economic running of Sheba as an institution of excellence,
declared that Israel was eager to become an active participant in the Bologna
Treaty, giving Israeli students and researchers open access to high-level
European institutions while turning down foreigners who want to undergo clinical
training in Israeli hospitals.
He noted that his own daughter years ago
graduated from a university in Hungary and became a licensed Israeli doctor
after not being admitted to a university medical school here.
had never been involved in setting standards for the studies of foreign
university students, he added.
The Sheba director said that although his
hospital is owned by the Health Ministry, it must manage with its own financial
means and does not receive state funds; instead, it has to raise money with its
own initiatives, such as the London-Nicosia-Sheba proposal.
University president Prof.
Menahem Ben-Sasson said ironically that he was
happy to hear that “Sheba Medical Center suddenly has a surplus of teaching
beds. In view of the acute shortage of clinical facilities and doctors, the
universities will be happy to make use of them for additional Israeli medical
HU medical school dean Prof. Eran Leitersdorf said Israel must
worry first about its own.
“I had to find a scholarship for a medical
student who didn’t even have bus fare from the dorm. Ninety-four percent work to
support themselves. If there is extra money, let it be for training Israelis as
doctors,” he said.
The ministry’s Dr. Amir Shanon, who runs the medical
professions department, said that while it has supported allowing foreign
students to come for separate medical degree programs, it would not support any
that brought too few Israelis.
“This is an odd mixture, with a bachelor’s
degree from one place learning academically in Cyprus and supervised by the
University of London and then two final years in Israeli teaching
A representative of the Council for Higher Education, Cigal
Murdoch, said it had never received a request from Sheba for approval of the
program, even though approval was required by law.
MK Arye Eldad, himself
a trained plastic surgeon and burns specialist, said that foreign medical
student programs were designed “in a different age, when there was a large
number of physicians. Now we make it difficult for Israelis to study for six
years and then do internship.”
Commenting later, Rambam Medical Center
director Prof. Rafael Beyar said that “priority must always be secured for
Israeli university students, but studies of foreign students in Israel is a
positive phenomenon that should be allowed. I am strongly in favor of adding 200
more Israelis each year to be fully funded in the five Israeli medical schools;
once this program is reached, it will erase all current distortions.”