Residents of northern Israel live less, smoke more and have less access to doctors than residents of the center of the country, a report by the Health Ministry said. The report was presented to a Knesset subcommittee on the state of health services in northern Israel by Professor Itamar Grotto, Deputy Director of the Health Ministry.
Responding to the report, MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), chairperson of the subcommittee, said that “residents of the north are not second-class citizens. Health services are a basic right of life, and they are entitled to the same services as residents of Tel Aviv.”
According to the report, there are 2.2 doctors for every 1,000 residents of the central and northern Galilee, compared to 4.4 per thousand in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. People live longer in the Tel Aviv area; the average life span for men there is 82.2 years, while women in the Tel Aviv area live 84.1 years on average; in the north, it’s 78.1 for men, and 82.2 for women.
The loss of those two years on average could be due to fewer doctors and less access to medical services – or it could be because residents of the north have less healthy lifestyles. In the center of the country, 18.5 percent of Jews smoked, compared to 24.8 percent in the north; among Arabs living in the center, 25.2 percent smoked, compared to 32.6 percent in the north.
One positive indication in the report was a continued fall in the infant mortality rate – but even here, the rate for the north was slightly above the national average.
“There is no excuse for a situation in which there are only half as many doctors per capita in the north as there are in the center,” Yogev said. “I see no reason to force residents of the north to have to travel many hours to better staffed and equipped hospitals. We intend to get answers and solutions to these problems from the Health Ministry and the Finance Ministry, to get funding for programs, especially to bring more and better medical experts to the north.”