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      Report: Fewer Dentists in Israel

      Israel's Ministry of Health reports a decline in doctor-to-patient ratio in Israel.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 8/12/2010, 5:15 AM / Last Update: 8/12/2010, 5:12 AM

      According to figures published by Israel’s Health Ministry and reproduced on the British Cosmetic Dentistry Guide website, the ratio of dentists to patients in Israel is decreasing.

      The figures reflect a national trend across all medical fields, including doctors, dental technicians, nurses, pharmacists and medical laboratory technicians. At the same, data shows that there has been an increase in the number of patients covered by individual physicians and health institutions. This means more pressure for health services and health professionals.

      The report is consistent with a previous report released around this time last year, which also said that Israel is experiencing a grave shortage in healthcare professionals. The 2009 report said that there has been an 8% drop in the number of doctors since 2000 and a 40% drop in the number of nurses.

      It is believed that a decrease in immigration from the former Soviet Union is to blame for the increasing ratios in the medical field. Israel has seen a steady decrease in recent years in the number of qualified health professionals coming over from the former Soviet Union.

      In 2009, Israel had 3.5 doctors and 5.9 nurses for every 1000 individuals. While some 600 people become certified medical professionals every year, only half of them graduate from Israeli training facilities.

      Israel's doctor-per 100,000 people ratio is considered higher than average compared with most European Union states; however, it is still lower than the common ratio in Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia.

      Representatives from the Israel Medical Association (IMA) were quoted in the British Cosmetic Dentistry Guide website as saying that the statistics published in the Health Ministry Report are very worrying. IMA Chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said that the IMA had been warning the government about the decline in numbers of medical staff for many years and is now calling for the government to act quickly, among other ways by improving salaries for doctors, dentists and other health professionals.

      Just two months ago, the Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee approved the inclusion of dental care as part of the basket of healthcare services for the first time. As of July 1, the amendment to the healthcare basket went into effect and will initially apply to dental care for children up to the age of 8. There will be no need to pay supplementary health insurance.

      Since dental care until now has only been available privately, some concerns were expressed over the new legislation, as it was seen as hurting private dentists. However, Globes reported that private dentists will continue to operate in Israel and special legislation will be formulated that will allow them to organize through a designated dental health fund, which will provide dentistry services. This way, dentistry will be provided even for those who cannot afford it privately, while the private alternative will remain for those who would like it.