Arabs underrepresented in public health sector

Only 9.5% of public medical staff, .25% of management are Arabs, despite comprising 20% of population.

Doctors residents x-ray 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Doctors residents x-ray 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Only 9.5 percent of medical personnel working in government institutions are Arabs, with only 0.25% in management positions, even though they constitute 20% of the Israeli population, according to MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List- Ta’al), head of a Knesset investigative committee on the subject.
In actual numbers, there are just 2,729 Arabs among 28,724 medical workers.
Nearly 970 Arabs work in the northern district and only 60 in the southern district.
The rate of Arab psychologists, social workers, paramedics, physiotherapists and occupational therapists is 7.25%, while only 2.58% of psychologists in the public sector are Arabs.
Tibi said on Monday that half of all state workers are employed in the health system, but fewer than 10% are Arabs. In general government service, Arabs constitute 7% of employees.
In the north, the share of Arabs in governmental health institutions is higher than in other parts of the country, but nevertheless, only 0.25% are in management positions. The most prominent is Dr. Masad Barhoom, director-general of the Western Galilee Government Hospital in Nahariya.
Arabs in the south, Tibi stated, have much less representation in health system jobs, especially when the Bedouin population’s significant need for public health services and Arabic-speaking staffers is taken into account. Fewer than 2% of the Health Ministry’s staff is Arab.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said his staff is working to improve the situation in the south and in various emergency rooms with large Arab populations.
“In health, there are no barriers. If something is good for the Arab population, it is also good for the Jewish population, and vice versa. The ministry is working to eliminate discrimination as much as possible,” Litzman continued.
Ministry Director-General Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that the Arab population must be more strongly encouraged to train for health professions. Of 700 students that have started medical school this year, only 9% are Arabs. Five years ago the figure was half as large.
“In the problematic districts, especially in the south, we have increased the number of Arab nursing students, of which there are now 35. If we receive more money, we will be able to double and even triple the manpower slots for Arabs and Druse in these areas,” Gamzu stated.
Gamzu said the ministry has opened an Arabic section on its website, granting the population more access to information.
As for management positions, he conceded, “This is our soft [weak] spot.”
An adviser to the Knesset committee, Dr. Danny Gera, said that the relatively good situation of Arabs in the health sector compared to others government divisions is “not a result of wanting to give them suitable representation but because of the shortage of manpower in this sector.”
Tibi summarized the discussion with the committee’s demand that the health funds provide data on Arab employment within 30 days.
He further asked the ministry to consider easing licensing demands for hundreds of Arab doctors. He also suggested holding retraining courses for Arabs to become nurses, in order to ease the shortage in Arab areas.
Additionally, Tibi called for the establishment of a joint team of the ministry and the Council for Higher Education, to research the barriers to Arab acceptance to and study at schools in the health professions.