The good news is that Israelis are younger, have a higher life expectancy and
lower infant mortality than most other member nations in the Organization of
Economic Cooperation and Development. The bad news is that Israel has fewer
hospital beds and nurses per capita and lower national public expenditures on
health than almost any other member state.
The OECD disclosed this on
Thursday, as part of its annual comparative report of healthcare data. Israel
has been a member of the organization of advanced nations since
Most of the negative data on Israel involved its medical
infrastructure, while most of its positive statistics involved
From the former, it became clear that only two of the 34
OECD states have fewer hospital beds per capita than Israel.
The ratio is
1.9 beds per 1,000 residents compared to the OECD average of 3.4. The lack of
beds forces medical staffers to discharge patients early and to follow a
“warm-bed policy” of admitting patients as soon as the existing ones can be sent
home – even if they haven’t totally recovered.
There are 3.3 physicians
per 1,00 residents in Israel, compared to the OECD average of 3.2, but the local
ratio has declined significantly in recent years and will drop even more in the
coming years because of mass retirement by doctors from the former Soviet Union
who arrived in the 1990s. In most other OECD countries, doctor-to-resident
ratios are increasing.
There are only 4.8 nurses per 1,000 Israelis,
compared to the OECD average of 8.8 – a very serious lack. In addition, national
healthcare expenditure as a proportion of the gross domestic product is low –
7.7 percent compared to the OECD average of 9.3%. The share of state
expenditures continues to decline as residents have to pay more out-of-pocket
expenses for healthcare, the report found. It is 60.8% compared to the OECD
average of 72.7%.
Israel is third among the OECD in the rate of citizens
who have supplementary and private health insurance policies, which is an
indication that the residents don’t trust their basic health insurance to
provide the care they need (as has been shown in recent opinion
At the same time, Israel is a young country, with only 10% of the
population aged 65 and older – although the percentage is constantly growing –
compared to 15.4% in the average OECD country. It also has a lot of children –
28% under the age of 14 – the second highest rate in the OECD. Thus the
dependence ratio, showing the burden of the working public from those too young
or too old to work, is the highest in the organization of states.
mortality rate in Israel is lower than in the US and the UK, but higher than in
Spain, Greece and Scandinavia; however, there are significant differences in
mortality rates among ethnic, religious and racial groups in Israel.
large number of organizations issued comments on the report. The Israel Medical
Association said that “unfortunately, a sad and difficult picture of the
hospitalization system has been presented. These reports repeat themselves and
stress the failure of the health system in supplying needed infrastructures and
relieving the difficult working conditions of medical staffers.”
added that medical technologies, including the number of MRI machines in
hospitals, are inadequate and lower than OECD averages.
association said the OECD uses irrelevant criteria – the number of licensed MDs
– and not the number of working physicians, which skews the figures and makes
the situation look better than it is. A significant chunk of physicians work in
research or the pharmaceutical industry or have left the country or are working
only in part-time jobs, with the rest of their time spent in private medical
institutions, the IMA said.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, head of the Knesset
Lobby for Equality in Health, commented that “healthcare “is not really a high
priority of the government.
[Ministers] prefer to get filmed when they
speak about the Iran nuclear bomb than to demand addition medical manpower and
Gilon also complained that accessibility to healthcare
in the periphery is very limited, causing inequity and gaps.
voluntary organization Yad Sarah called for the expansion of home healthcare to
ease the shortage of hospital beds.
Last year, the organization lent
2,100 hospital beds to families so patients could be treated at home – more than
the number of beds in the general hospitals.
The beds are purchased by
the organization with donations.
As hospital occupancy averages 98% and
the population continues to grow, overcrowding promotes hospital-acquired
infections. Thus it’s better if patients who can be treated at home have
hospital beds to sleep in. Yad Sarah also lends thousands of oxygen-producing
machines and even more oxygen cylinders for home use.
The One in Nine
organization that helps women suffering from breast cancer said it was happy to
note that the rate of mammographies undergone by women over 50 (and younger for
women with a family history) is relatively high in Israel.
But the rate
is too low among Arab and haredi women, the organization added.
for Human Rights/Israel commented that the OECD data “hide the large gaps in
healthcare and accessibility between the well-off and poor and among various
groups. For example, mortality rates among Arab babies are higher than among
Jewish babies, and the shortage of nurses and medical equipment is more serious
in the south compared to the center of the country.
All the voluntary
organizations agreed that the government must immediately raise state
expenditure to improve the healthcare system.