Decline in number of doctors and nurses speeds up

Health Ministry report shows proportion of medical professionals to general population continues to drop.

Health Ministry 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Health Ministry 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The proportion of physicians, nurses, dentists, dental technicians, medical lab workers and pharmacists relative to the general population continued to drop last year, according to a report issued by the Health Ministry for publication on Tuesday.
The statistics, which included physicians up to the age of 65 who were working in the profession, reflect a trend that has speeded up in recent years.
In 2000, there were 3.71 working physicians per 1,000 residents; by 2008, the figure had dropped to 3.45, and by 2009 to just 3.43.
Due to the major drop in immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were working in the medical professions last year compared to 2000, many more medical licenses were granted to Israelis who graduated from local medical schools or from medical schools abroad, especially in Hungary, Romania and Italy.
The share of women doctors rose from 43 percent of all physicians up to age 45 and 38% up to age 65 in 2000, to 47% and 41%, respectively, in 2009.
Although the share of medical specialists up to age 65 increased by 15% since 2000, the number of specialists younger than 45 declined, from 30% to 23%.
The proportion of nurses up to age 60 declined to 5.51 per 1,000 residents in 2009, compared to 6.03 at the end of 2002, according to the report. The rate of dentists up to age 65 declined as well, to 1.07 per 1,000 residents, from 1.12 in 2000. Last year, about four out of every 10 new dentists were women, with 38% of new dentists having graduated from the two Israeli dental schools, 37% from schools in Eastern Europe, 15% from schools in Syria or Egypt, and 10% from schools in North America or Western Europe.
Unlike the situation regarding doctors and dentists, for whom space at university-affiliated medical schools is limited due to the high cost of government-subsidized studies, the report said there had been an increase in the proportion of psychologists, dental hygienists, optometrists and clinical geneticists relative to the general population.
In 2008, 170,000 Israelis were employed in the health services. These included 25,000 doctors and 34,000 nurses. The ratios of doctors and nurses compared to the general populations in the North and South were lower than in the center of the country. Over three-quarters of the nurses and 58% of the doctors worked primarily in hospitals in 2006-2008. The average physician worked 49 hours per week, and the average nurse 36 hours.
Israel Medical Association (IMA) chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman, reacting to the ministry report, said the decline in physicians was very worrisome and “demonstrates the powerlessness of the state regarding medical manpower. The IMA has been warning about this decline for years.”
Eidelman maintained that the numbers of working physicians given by the ministry were actually optimistic, saying quite a few doctors had left their clinical work or reduced their workload to a part-time basis. He added that compared to European Union figures, in which there are nine or 10 new graduate physicians per 100,000 people, in Israel the figure is only four.
The IMA chief called for improving the salaries of doctors, as well as their work conditions – especially in the periphery, where they are needed most – and significantly increasing the number of funded job slots for doctors in hospitals.