The OECD's latest report brought mixed news regarding Israel's standing in relation to other OECD nations.
In good news, Israelis are healthier than most. Infant mortality is relatively low, at 3.8 per 1,000 births compared to an average of 4.4, obesity is lower than the European average, and both men and women have a higher life expectancy than the OECD average.
Fertility is high, with the average Israeli woman giving birth to three children, more than in any other OECD country. The high natural growth means the average working Israeli has more dependents than average.
The report found that while Israelis are in relatively good health, the healthcare system infrastructure is overburdened. Israel's hospitals are the most crowded found among OECD nations, with wards filled to an average of 96.3% of capacity. Staffing received mixed marks: Israel's doctor-to-patient ratio is higher than the average, at 3.4 doctors per 1,000 citizens compared to 3.1, but the nurse-to-patient ratio is low, standing at 4.5 per thousand compared to an average of 9.1.
Israel's hospitals treat an average of 180,000 Palestinian Authority Arabs per year in addition to Israeli patients.
Government funding for public health is just two-thirds the OECD average.
Government: Working to Change
Government officials accepted the report, and said they are working to improve the healthcare system. The Health Ministry will add 1,000 hospital beds in the next five years, said Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman.
Ministry Director-General Ronny Gamzu said the report indicates “challenges” for the system to work on. The ministry has made steps in the right direction, he said, “Over the course of the past year we have worked to allot more beds [in hospitals], and we are in the midst of a process aimed at increasing manpower in the healthcare system and distributing it in a manner that will more effectively meet needs.”
The ministry also plans to fight public health threats such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol abuse, he said.
Ministry officials have been in talks with the Israel Medical Association for months as doctors carry out a partial strike. Doctors are calling for higher wages, an end to back-to-back shifts adding to more than 20 hours, and an end to understaffing.