The latest annual report on Inequality in Israel’s Health System that was just released on 189 pages in Hebrew found worrisome data that indicate significant gaps in hospital infrastructure, manpower and socioeconomic levels among the various sectors in society – the center of the country and the periphery; Jews and Arabs; the young and the elderly; and ultra-Orthodox (haredi) and non-haredi Jews.
In some cases, said the new Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, there was no improvement and sometimes the situation was even worse than during the previous year due to rising unemployment during the pandemic. Reducing inequality in health is a top national interest, said Horowitz, head of the left-wing Meretz party. “The Corona pandemic has proven once again that health disparities are not just a moral failure, but an issue with serious consequences affecting each and every Israeli citizen.
“During my tenure,” continued the health minister, “I will work to to reduce health disparities in collaboration with
the health system and education, welfare, and local authorities. We will strengthen the unit to reduce gaps, and together with staff of the whole public health system, we will position the Health Ministry of Health as the flagship of equality and human rights in Israel.”
The just-published report on 2020 on inequality in health outcomes in Israel’s health system is divided into three parts:
monitoring and reviewing economic inequality in hospitalization and manpower infrastructure, to which was added a section on caring family members and section describing the process of determining national indices of inequality; the pandemic and disparities between sectors regarding sickness and death from the Coronavirus, plus the various psychological effects of the pandemic; and gaps among the various ethnic groups in performing pregnancy screening; gaps among ethnic groups in undergoing pregnancy screening tests and the effect of corona on health service consumption; and articles reviewing the activity of the health system during the pandemic.
Ministry director-general Prof. Hezi Levy added that the corona crisis “required us to manage on several levels – accessibility and availability of tests, treatment and follow-up; hospitalization when needed solation at home or in hotels; and vaccination of the population. In the periphery in the north and south of the country and in development towns, we encountered difficulties of availability difficulties of testing facilities to detect and prevent the spread of the virus.” Some localities in the periphery received vaccines later than in the center of the country.
Hospitalization and severe illness from the virus were reported as being more frequent among Israeli Arabs and among Jews with low socio-economic status. The highest mortality rates from the virus were found among Israeli Arabs, followed by haredi Jews, both of whom were for months reluctant to get vaccinated.
The average age of those who died from COVID-19 was 73 in the Arab sector, compared to 78 in the ultra-Orthodox sector and 81 in the general society.
Another statistic worthy of attention was the time it took between receiving a positive result from COVID-19 tests and being hospitalized in a deteriorating condition. The average number of days from verification to hospitalization in a critical condition was shorter in Arab society (four days on average, ompared to 5.3 days in general society and 5.4 days in the haredi sector.)
Meanwhile, the rate of working physicians in Israel in 2018 was 3.2 physicians per 1,000 people – 0.3 points lower than the rate in the OECD countries.
More than a quarter of primary care doctors are not family physicians in Jerusalem and the north. There are also gaps in children’s health, with those in lower socio-economic groups including more overweight youngers (due to the tendency to eat cheap, heavily processed food with a lot of fats, sugar and salt.