On Monday morning, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Heatlh Community met to discuss the growing lack of family physicians and the general state of medicine in Israel.

"This is an emergency," said Committee of Family Physicians Chairman Dr. Alexander Levin. "There are only about 70 internists per year, and we need at least 250 experts every year. In addition, family doctors spend 60% of their time dealing with bureaucracy, and only 40% of their time helping their patients."

Family Doctors' Union Chairman Professor Shlomo Winker said, "Over 40% of family doctors are over 60 years old. We don't know how we will replace them."

Family physician Dr. Michal Shani said, "There's an overwhelming amount of work, and there are less available positions. This forces me to send patients to do their tests at different places, instead of doing it all myself. There are just too many people waiting outside the door."

Health Committee Chairman MK Eli Alaluf (Kulanu) noted the average number of clients each health fund's doctors have: In Maccabi, each doctor treats 1,814 patients on average, while in Clalit each doctor treats 1,730 patients on average. The other health funds' family physicians treat over 1,000 on average.

"This is an extremely worrying situation, and it needs to be solved strategically. Proper preparations will save money in the long run. I am worried about overwhelming hospitals and the entire health care system," he said.

"We have already offered incentives for health funds to offer more positions for family doctors. We hope we will have the budget for it. We are also working to lower the demands which the Education Ministry imposes on prospective students of medicine, and on allowing hospitals to prescribe prescriptions for patients within three days of their release. All of these things together will help improve the situation and make life easier for family doctors," said the Health Ministry's Head of Medical Administration Dr. Niva Azuz.

MK Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Union) said, "Unfortunately, the Finance Committee will probably approve lowering Ministry budgets by over one billion NIS [$384,000,000]. And one of the ministries which will suffer is the Health Ministry."

"The best way to lower the healthcare system's costs is to strengthen community medicine, and part of that means doctors spending more time with each patient, and hiring nurses who will help. We're in a real crisis, it's not just a slogan," said Meuhedet's Family Practice Internship Head Professor Anthony Hyman.