OECD report shows Israeli health system in shambles

OECD report shows Israeli health system in shambles

International survey produces dire statistics on declining standards regarding hospitals, personnel and spending

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of an Israeli hospital (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an Israeli hospital (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An international report issued Thursday revealed major flaws in Israel’s public health system, determining that the country’s ranking on a number of critical healthcare infrastructure issues falls far behind those of other leading developed countries.

According to the report by the OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation), national expenditure on health in Israel consists of only 7.7% of the GDP, as opposed to an average of 9.3% among the 34 other OECD member nations.

The report bumps against earlier surveys, which found Israel’s healthcare system to be among the best in the world.

The study found that private spending on healthcare in Israel stands at 37.9% of all health payments, compared with an OECD average of 28.5%. Private healthcare spending in the Scandinavian countries, for example, is a mere 16%.

The group also reported that Israel offers an average of 1.91 hospitalization beds for every 1,000 citizens, placing hospital occupancy rates in the country at 98%, among the highest in the bloc of developed countries.

The number of hospital beds per 1,000 residents in Japan, on the other hand, is 7.95, and Germany averages at 5.33. The lack of beds runs the risk of staffers discharging unhealthy patients early in order to admit newer patients in their stead.

In terms of medical personnel working in the country, the report found that Israel has 3.3 doctors per thousand residents, above the OECD average of 3.2. Nevertheless, the report found that the amount of retiring MDs slightly outnumbers the amount of students who enroll at medical school each year. As a result, the number of doctors per thousand residents in Israel is expected to decrease within the next few years.

While the OECD average for nurses is 8.8 per thousand residents, Israel employs only a little more than half that amount — 4.8 nurses per thousand residents.

Although 72.9% of women aged 50-69 schedule mammogram tests for the early detection of cancer — compared with a much lower OECD average of 56.5% — the mortality rate from breast cancer in Israel is higher than the OECD average.

Other report findings include the fact that 61% of Israelis over 65 get flu vaccinations, compared with the OECD average of 50.4%, and that the percentage of children under the age of 14 in Israel is 28.0, ranking second highest among the OECD countries.

On the positive side of the ledger, the group determined that life expectancy in Israel is higher than the OECD average.

Women in Israel are expected to reach the age of 83.6, compared with the average of 83.1 in the OECD. Israeli men may live — on average — until the age of 79.9, ranking fourth among OECD members.

Fertility rates for women aged 15-49 in Israel are the highest among developed nations, with three children per woman on average, and the infant mortality rate is considerably low as well.

Health Minister Yael German downplayed the report’s somber tone, claiming that “Israel’s healthcare system is good and the quality of its doctors is high.

“Israel stands out favorably in some of the report’s figures, including life expectancy, especially for men, and the low infant mortality rate,” she said.

But she granted there was room for improvement.

“In the area of healthcare infrastructures, the report indicates worrying trends. There is no question that we should consider the matter and improve it,” German admitted.

Israel has been an official member of the OECD since 2010.

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