Optometry graduates serving in Lebanon see red

Recent graduates in optometry from Ramat Gan's Bar-Ilan University and Jerusalem's Hadassah College of Technology who have been fighting in Lebanon or who were forced to leave their homes in the North during the war, as well as wives of reservists, are desperately seeking to postpone the Health Ministry licensing exam scheduled for September 5. Motti Zisser, a graduate of BIU's four-year optometry program, told The Jerusalem Post that before he was called up for reserve service in the Armored Corps, he phoned the ministry's health professions department headed by Dr. Amir Shanon. "I was told that we would be able to take the test after we returned and not have to wait a full six months until the next optometry licensing exam is held," he said. But when Zisser called Shanon's office from the Lebanese border two weeks later, he said the secretary insisted, "Dr. Shanon decided not to hold another exam, as it only affects a handful of students." Fax messages were sent to the office requesting another exam date, said Zisser. He added he was sure there had been many other such requests, as he knew personally of half a dozen men in the same position serving in Lebanon, and that there were also others who had been unable to study for the exam - spouses of reservists and people who had to leave their homes in the North during the war. "We need a month or six weeks to prepare for the exam," he said. A member of an optometry faculty who asked not to be named said, "I know there are more than a handful, but even if there are only two or three, why should they suffer for having been sent to fight in Lebanon? The ministry must show sensitivity for the fighters." He said that in the past, the optometry faculty had been "unhappy" with the level of ministry licensing exams and had persuaded the ministry to get a volunteer expert to compose a new exam. "It took months. I don't know how the ministry will get another exam written in a few weeks. Perhaps it's best to postpone the September 5 exam for all 90 students for a month or so." Ninety recent graduates are eligible for the exam, but not all have been affected by the war. The Health Ministry's deputy director-general in charge of the medical branch, Dr. Yitzhak Berlovich, said Shanon's office never received any fax or formal request to postpone the exam. "We don't know how many have the problem, and we can't deal with it unless we have a formal request for another exam," Berlovich said. "It is not Shanon's secretary's job to tell applicants they have to make a formal request. Government can't work this way." But, cooling down, he added that if a request was presented in writing for a postponement, explaining the problem and giving details on how many needed an extension, "We will consider it positively." An additional licensing exam for nurses and doctors has already been scheduled.