ACRI: South losing doctors to private medicine

Southern patients on "periphery" have less healthcare availability than in Center; physicians shift to private institutions.

Doctors perform surgery (generic) R 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Swoan Parker)
Doctors perform surgery (generic) R 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Swoan Parker)
Residents of the South – considered to be living on the “periphery” and with less availability of healthcare than in the Center – have already “lost physicians” to private medicine, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel charged on Tuesday.
ACRI said that dozens of reception hours by doctors at public facilities have been “shifted” to private medical institutions – and this is five years before Assuta Medical Centers will open a public hospital in Ashdod where the government has agreed to allow private medical services (known as Sharap).
“It is important to separate public from private medical services and limit private care,” said Shlomit Avni of ACRI.
A new ACRI report compiled together with the Bet- Shin – Equality in Health – group recently looked into the shortage of medical manpower in the South. It concluded that in 13 different medical specialties, at least 175 hours per week have been shifted from public care at Soroka University Medical Center to private care elsewhere in Beersheba.
Patients who want to consult with doctors, receive treatment or undergo surgery at Soroka without making out-of-pocket payments have to wait on longer queues than those in private institutes for which they pay privately or with supplementary health insurance.
Soroka doctors, said Avni, work in the afternoons and evenings at the private clinics in order to supplement their income.
She added that many specialists have left the South to work in the center of the country in the growing number of well-paying private hospitals.
Avni charged that ACRI initiated the report after hearing from a woman active in Bet- Shin who needed to consult with an orthopedist about surgery. Clalit Health Service offered her an 18-month wait for an appointment, even though she suffers from pain and limited movement.
When the woman called Clalit’s supplementary health insurance office, she was told she could be operated on within three months.
“If doctors were better paid for their regular hours and received extra benefits, most of them would chose to remain in the public health system and work only one job,” said Avni. “Good doctors who are are burnt out have more incentive if they work privately. “Supplementary health insurance policies of the public health funds make it possible for doctors to leave. Patients are tired of waiting,” she added.
The lack of long-term infrastructure planning has contributed to doctors fleeing the public system, and this has harmed the stability and the image of the public medical system, the report said.
The Health Ministry did not comment, but Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman was present at the ceremony in the Treasury a few months ago in which Assuta Medical Centers was awarded the tender to build a hospital in Ashdod that includes the right to offer private medical services as a percentage of the workload, even though it will be a “public hospital” largely paid for by the state.