Conscripted Prescriptions: A Not-So-Modest Proposal

The recent kerfuffle over the failed Obamacare roll-out has got me thinking. Israel has a disturbing shortage of doctors and nurses. In 2010 the Ministry of Health released a report detailing the severity of the problem. By 2015 it is estimated that there will only be 3.09 doctors for every 1,000 people. By 2025 that ratio will dwindle down to 2.69 doctors per 1,000 people.

The reason for the shortage of medical professionals is not hard to fathom.  Israeli socialized healthcare has set the prices (very low) for all medical procedures. It is also extremely difficult getting into Israeli medical school. For these reasons  Israelis have little incentive to choose a medical profession, and those who do, have good reason to leave Israel. The upshot of all this is that the medical procedures we expect happen to be extremely cheap (thank God). The down side is that there simply aren’t enough doctors to perform these procedures (oops).  If you’ve ever waited three months for a medical test (only to have the problem go away by itself) you know what I’m talking about.

In 2010 the Health Ministry instituted a variety of measures to help alleviate this serious problem. They’ve mandated that Israeli medical schools must accept more applicants, and they limited the number of spots available to foreign students. They are also working with Immigrant absorption to encourage aliyah among foreign doctors.

Now all of these ideas are great. The problem is, they will take a while to come into effect.

I would like to propose a much quicker (and I think better) idea. The State of Israel should institute a mandatory draft of citizens into the medical professions. These could be 18 or 19 year olds who for various reasons have not been accepted into military or national service. The manpower could also come from Israel’s current 6.9% unemployment rate. Those who don’t have jobs, or have ill paying part-time jobs, could join this new mandatory civilian medical corps.

Beyond all of that, think of the Zionist impact of this idea! This civilian medical corps could be a meeting ground for different Israelis from all walks of life. Former shopkeepers can mix and mingle with former humanities professors (heck we all need jobs!).  These doctors will be receiving a minimum salary that just covers minimum expenses. This will be quite different from the doctors we have today who just save lives for money…kind of like mercenaries. Our brave doctors and nurses will be acting out of the deepest Jewish and Zionist impulses that are widespread throughout our people.

If you think this idea is absolutely crazy…you are absolutely right. Which is why we should all take Avi Woolf’s recent post very seriously.

About the Author
Nehemia Stern is a PhD Candidate in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. He lives in Jerusalem and is trying to find as many ways as possible to procrastinate while finishing a dissertation.