Following protests in the North earlier this week against health care gaps between the center and the periphery of the country, Health Minister MK Yakov Litzman released a plan for reducing these disparities.
The Health Ministry plan for the periphery includes: opening more emergency medical centers, incentivizing doctors to work in these regions, bringing MRI machines to a number of hospitals in the North, training more Bedouin nurses in the South, creating incentives for the health funds to invest in the periphery, and increasing the allocation of hospital beds.
A recent Taub Center study shows that the disparity in access to hospital beds between regions in Israel is significant. In Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, the supply of beds is between 2.2 and 2.5 beds per 1,000 people, while in the Southern district, the supply is only 1.3 beds per 1,000 people. Similarly, the supply of doctors in 2013 per 1,000 people in the North was only two-thirds as high as in other parts of the country, while the supply of other healthcare professionals (such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, etc.) in the North and South was half that of other regions.
The limited supply of hospital beds aligns with other disparities in healthcare in the periphery, including longer waiting times for elective surgeries. As shown in the graph below, the supply of beds in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, is the highest in the country, and patient waiting times are 15%-30% shorter than the national average. In contrast, in the Southern district, where the supply of beds is lowest, patient waiting times are about 44% longer than the average.
The bottom line: the regions with fewer hospital beds also have longer waiting times.
The new plan, which was announced on Tuesday, includes adding more than 300 beds to hospitals in the periphery.