The National Council of Doctors on Wednesday warned that Israel was facing a real danger from the shortage of doctors that is expected if medical students and doctors specializing abroad decide not to return, amid the government's judicial legislation. In a letter addressed to Moshe Bar Siman Tov, the Director General of the Health Ministry, the council demanded that the information be made clear to decision-makers in the government.
Bar Siman Tov had recently been accused of failing to reflect to the government, the severity of the pending crisis. He is scheduled to meet Israeli medical students on Thursday.
The doctors are concerned that in addition to physicians considering leaving to work in medical centers abroad, there is now a danger that graduates of medical schools in Europe, numbering in the hundreds, will not return although they have jobs awaiting them here.
The Association of Doctors recently joined petitioners demanding that the first bill in the government's judicial overhaul – the reasonability clause – that was passed last month, be canceled. In an article in the prestigious journal, "The Lancet," Hagai Levin, the head of the association wrote that Israel was heading toward a 3rd world health system.
In an interview with Ynet, Levin said that he fears life expectancy would drop. "This is where this government is leading us," he said.
In their letter, the council members said the danger to Israel's health system was tangible. "It is our duty, as members of the council appointed by the Health Ministry, to inform you of processes that we regard as dangerous to a system we all cherish," they wrote. "Israel has one of the best medical systems in the world, which is based on foundations set 100 years ago, but are now under attack," they said.
They noted what they described as complete disregard for professional recommendations and public health needs in favor of private health options, citing the government's decision to reverse legislation that imposed a tax on sweetened soda drinks so as to reduce cases of diabetes, the refusal of ministers to raise the price of electronic cigarettes and the decision to cancel a national program to ensure adequate nourishment for impoverished children.
They warn of harm to the profession in proposed legislation that would allow medical staff that had not received proper and sufficient training to obtain a Health Ministry license and provide medical care.
They also warned of the intent of ministers to dissolve the council that oversees advanced training for physicians and sanctions levied on the council by coalition lawmakers who said they would scrap the medical association as well.
In the letter, the council members decry the public attacks on doctors because of their support in the mass protests against the judicial legislation, by members of the coalition and their advocates in the media after the physicians were hailed for their work and commitment during the coronavirus pandemic, and also noted that physicians who are members of the LGBTQ community were under assault by them as well.
The said international cooperation was already impacted and they feared clinical trials would be delayed or canceled, grants will be withheld. They said experts were already hesitant about arriving in Israel to dispense their knowledge although often the real reason is obscured in official correspondence and only revealed in conversations. "The academic damage is no less important than all others," they said.
"Doctors who feel that their country considers them the enemy will leave, causing great harm to the health system," they wrote. "It is important to see the complete picture and although the number of doctors who will leave, or choose not to come back to Israel, is not yet clear when they are known, it will be too late.