Not everyone's happy about Israel's newest med school

Published date24 August 2023
AuthorGali Weinreb
Publication titleGlobes (Rishon LeZion, Israel)
While the program's leaders are excited about its implementation, and tout its use of medical simulators, there are those who claim that it is a delusion, a project that will not really help increase the number of doctors but will be established using public resources at the expense of other solutions. There is no doubt that the school will charge its students significantly higher fees than those at Israel's public universities, but the opponents of the move also cast doubt on the professional standard that the students will receive in return

Racing to stay in place

But first, some background on the situation which the new school is entering. There are about 30,000 doctors in Israel, only 3.2 doctors per thousand people, compared with an OECD average of 3.4 T. Even this low number is will soon fall significantly, mainly because of the Yatziv reform in licensing foreign medical graduates (Prof. Shaul Yatziv is head of the Division of Licensing of Health Professions in the Ministry of Health) that disqualified many institutions, but not just that. Other reasons include population increase and, in the coming years, a massive retirement wave of doctors who came to Israel during the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union during the 1990s and filled a void which had already begun to form at that time and was never dealt with.

During the past decade, the number of medical school graduates in Israel has increased significantly, but still has not managed to keep up with population growth. A committee headed by Prof. Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov), published a report in early 2022 with recommendations for a rapid increase in the number of students so that the number of medical license recipients in Israel would increase to 2,000 a year by 2035 (compared with approximately 1,800 today), of which about 1,200 (60%) would be home-grown. Meaning, by the middle of the next decade, the ratio of doctors per capita would return to roughly the same level as today. However, if the plan is not implemented, is delayed, or not budgeted, or if doctors leaves the country or the profession en masse, it will be very difficult to close the gap. Currently, another Gamzu committee is working on expanding the recommendations, while the Ministry of Health is itself preparing a plan that should make these recommendations operational, although nothing has yet been officially decided or budgeted.

Today, only about 40% of new doctors entering Israel's medical system have studied in Israel, the lowest rate of locally-trained qualified doctors among all OECD countries. In a special OECD report on medical education and training In Israel, published in May of this year, Israel received low marks for its number of medical school graduates, the lowest in the OECD relative to the population.

The reason is that there are not enough places in Israel's medical schools to train enough doctors for the country's entire medical system. But there is also a revolving door: universities in Israel -- Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology -- train foreign students (in 2021, 113 out of a total of 1,020 new registrants for all of Israel). In addition, those who study in Israel do not always remain within the system, but move abroad for work, with 9% of Israeli-trained doctors employed abroad at any given time.

The gaps in the system are filled by Israeli students who studied abroad, usually in Western or Eastern...

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