Exclusive: IDF to outsource primary health care

Commander cites shortage of IDF physicians, need to improve primary care for non-combat soldiers.

idf soldiers 224 88 (photo credit: IDF [file])
idf soldiers 224 88
(photo credit: IDF [file])
The shortage of IDF physicians and the need to improve primary care for non-combat soldiers has led the army to issue a public tender for the supply of those services in civilian health fund clinics. A pilot program will begin soon to replace primary care clinics at the Tel Hashomer base and in Tel Aviv's Kirya military headquarters so that more military doctors can be shifted to bases in the North, South and other outlying areas where combat soldiers serve. The change was revealed by Col. Dr. Kobi Haviv, the IDF's commander of medical services, in a exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Thousands of non-combat soldiers would be included in the pilot program, he said. Haviv, a specialist in occupational medicine, public health and medical administration, speaking in his office at the Tel Hashomer military base, said the supply of medical specialist care to soldiers was "fine. We buy services in hospitals, and we have our own clinics with specialists; some of the specialists are IDF officers, while others are civilian physicians who volunteer to see soldiers as their reserve duty." But primary medical care for non-combat soldiers was problematic, Haviv said. "We want to continue to be responsible for such care, but through outsourcing and careful supervision of the services provided to the IDF," he said. "In the pilot project, selected primary care physicians working at health fund clinics who are found suitable will treat soldiers. If it succeeds, we will expand it. "We hope all four health funds eventually will be part of the program. This will free up IDF doctors to treat soldiers in the field. It will not aimed at saving money but to improve medical care for soldiers and avoid duplication of services," Haviv said. Less than a year ago, the IDF contracted the Bikur Rofeh chain of urgent-care clinics to provide off-hours immediate care to IDF personnel. Haviv rejected media criticism of this outsourcing project, and said that while improvements were needed during the "running in" period, he was very satisfied with the accessibility and quality of the service provided at the eight urgent-care clinics. The IDF Medical Corps is also issuing a tender for the establishment of a separate medical school to produce doctors who would be trained not only as excellent physicians, but also as IDF officers who know soldiering first hand, Haviv said. The medical school would be attached to one of the existing four academic medical schools, he said. A feature on health care in the IDF will appear on the Sunday Health Page on November 23.