Coronavirus: ‘Let us help,’ says group of FSU doctors

The group of young FSU doctors, enrolled in a program to get their Israeli license, sent a letter to health authorities asking to be integrated into the system to contribute in this time of crisis.

FSU doctors enrolled in the program by Israel Experience at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. (photo credit: ISRAEL EXPERIENCE)
FSU doctors enrolled in the program by Israel Experience at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
(photo credit: ISRAEL EXPERIENCE)
A group of young doctors in an Israeli training program asked to be integrated into the healthcare system so they can contribute in this time of crisis.
“We could really help. We don’t know when our exam is going to be, but we would like to start working as soon as possible,” Daria Halochkina told The Jerusalem Post. “We would be happy to do any kind of medical job that is needed.”
Originally from Kiev, 23-year-old Halochkina is one of 58 members of the Young Doctors program by Israel Experience, the educational branch of the Jewish Agency, which every year brings 2,500 people on long-term programs to Israel.
 As a growing number of medical staff is forced to enter quarantine after being exposed to someone infected with the coronavirus, more help is needed. As of Wednesday, 926 doctors and more than a thousand nurses have entered isolation because of the virus.
However, the shortage of medical staff had been a chronic problem in Israel for several years. Last November, a report by the OECD showed that the proportion of doctors aged 55 and over in Israel stood at about 50% and was among the highest in the OECD nations. Moreover, Israel has only 5.1 nurses per 1,000 people, as opposed to the OECD average of 8.8.
Through Israel Experience, every year dozens of doctors who have completed their degrees or are already practicing medicine in their country of origin participate in an eight-month program at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa before taking the Health Ministry exam to practice here.
The program is supported by Masa Israel Journey. The participants, who are all eligible for aliyah under the Law of Return, have the option to obtain citizenship at the end of the program and over 90% do so, according to Amos Hermon, CEO of the organization.
 “In the past few years over 600 doctors have been integrated into the Israeli system thanks to our initiative,” Hermon said. “It is important to highlight that over 90% of our graduates pass the exam to work here.”
Besides Young Doctors, Israel Experience offers a similar track for dentists and is working on opening another one for nurses.
Hermon said they sent a letter from the doctors to the Health Ministry, Magen David Adom and the National Emergency Authority two days ago.
“We know our message has been received and our doctors are waiting for an answer. They are very eager to start working within the health system of the State of Israel and I want to believe that they are going to be integrated to face this situation of emergency.”
While the group of doctors currently enrolled in the program is looking forward to getting to work, they are not expecting any special treatment, as Sergei Kukharchuk, 36, originally from Moscow, said.
“This is a very difficult situation and I think the government is doing a lot to contain the outbreak. I understand that medical staff is under a lot of pressure and we want to offer our support, but our goal is to pass our exam and be fully integrated in the system. We are not asking to make things easier for us,” he said.
“I came here because I wanted to be part of the Israeli society, be connected to my heritage and work in one of the most advanced medical systems in the world.”
Borris Giller, 26, another participant of the program from Russia. is a surgeon and his wife is a pediatrician.
 “We have all completed medical school in the countries we come from. Some of us came straight after school and some of us already have plenty of hospital experience,” he said.
“We are all closely following news reports about the great overload in hospitals and on medical teams in Israel. My colleagues and I want to join the Israeli health system, immediately as far as we are concerned, and contribute our medical knowledge and desire and fight coronavirus together."