Israel is a facing a problem that’s plaguing other developed countries around the world: a shortage of nurses and doctors. People are living longer and healthcare is improving. These positive outcomes are slightly offset by the fact that we are struggling to produce enough doctors and nurses to provide patients with the quality care they deserve.
The Ministry of Health recently published a report that showed a mixed picture of the country’s health services compared to other OECD countries. The report shows that Israelis are living longer, but we have a shortage of hospital beds, doctors and nurses.
Israel has a ratio of 3.1 doctors for every 1,000 people. Last year, the rate stood at 3.4 doctors per 1,000 people.
At this point, Israel is below the OECD average, which calls for 3.3 doctors per 1,000 people. Austria tops the list, with 5.1 doctors per 1,000 people. South Korea came in last at 2.3 doctors per 1,000 people.
The nursing shortage is an even bigger issue. Israel holds the fourth-lowest position, with 5 nurses per 1,000 people. Norway topped the list, with 17.5 nurses per 1,000 people.
A big part of the problem is that we just aren’t producing doctors and nurses. The report shows that Israel performs poorly when it comes to medical studies graduates, with 6.8 graduates per 1,000 people. The OECD average stands at 12.1.
Israel has 2.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people, while the average stands at 3.6 beds per 1,000 people. Overcrowding is a problem in Israel, which has a 93.8% hospital occupancy rate. The OECD average is 75.5%.
The country is also home to one of the largest populations of smokers in the developed world: 19.6% vs. 16.4% average.
The Ministry of Health’s report did have some positive points. Israel has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world (82.5 years), the country has the highest number of births (3.1 children per woman vs. 1.7 average), and suicide rates are the second lowest (4.1 suicides per 100,000 vs. 12.4).
To help tackle the problem of the nursing shortage, the University of Haifa launched a program that allows holders of bachelor’s degrees to obtain a bachelor of arts (BA) degree in nursing in just two-and-a-half years instead of four. If the program works, we may see more nursing scrubs and doctor coats in hospitals. But it will take some time to close the gap and eliminate the shortage problem.
The program is open to all BA graduates in all fields.
Israel certainly has some work to do in the healthcare department, but there are no overnight or “quick-fix” solutions out there. The accelerated nursing program may help the country produce more nurses, but each graduate still has to go through 2.5-years of training before entering the field. It will take some time to reverse the shortage, but continuing to encourage our youth to enter the medical field will go a long way in improving the situation. And while the report’s figures are troubling, Israel still provides quality health care that outranks many other developed nations.