Patients seeking to make an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist under Israel’s national health program will get one within seven days, while getting an appointment with a cardiologist could take as much as 15 days. For a neurologist, patients should make an appointment 32 days in advance, while for an endocrinologist, patients may have to wait as long as 90 days. And for patients who seek an appointment with a psychologist or a psychotherapist, the wait is 150 days.
The figures were presented last week by the National Health Council, a patient advocacy group, on the occasion of the three- and-a-half year anniversary of reforms in access to mental health. According to the group, the wait for an appointment with a mental health professional is longer now than it was before the reforms.
Part of the reason, according to Health Ministry figures, is a significant increase in demand for appointments with mental health professionals – over 15 percent over the past several years. A total of 300,000 Israelis, or slightly less than 4 percent of the population, visit psychologists and psychiatrists each year, slightly lower than the average of 5 percent of the population of other developed countries, the Ministry said.
In a statement, the Council said that “given the number of people seeking help for mental-health issues, the wide range of issues being treated, and the long wait times, a massive development of the infrastructure for mental-health treatment is needed, including the establishment of new clinics and hiring hundreds of professionals. We must ask if mental health is getting the consideration it deserves from the government in terms of infrastructure and budget.”