Concern Over Cut in Benefits to Doctors in North, South

Assuta Hospital in Ashdod. (Hachadashot Hachamot)

Beginning January 1, bonuses that for the past eight years were distributed to doctors and medical personnel in peripheral areas will be halted. The reason: According to the Finance Ministry, which is responsible for the payments, the lack of a government budget has depleted the resources needed to pay the doctors.

The payments have been made since August 2011, as part of a labor agreement between medical personnel and the Health Ministry. At the time, tens of millions of shekels were allocated to assist doctors and nurses in moves to outlying areas, where there was a major shortage of medical practitioners. By 2014, the Finance Ministry said, NIS 670 million shekels had been allocated.

After that, however, there was a reduction in benefits, because less money was allocated to the program; in 2016, NIS $75 million was allocated, and by last year that figure had slipped to $70 million. That money had been allocated after much effort by both the Health and Finance Ministries, the latter said, but given the fact that there is currently no government to allocate more funds, the program was being shut down.

Health Ministry officials are very upset at the decision, Yediot Acharonot said. In a letter to the Finance Ministry, Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar-Simantov warned that shutting down the program would have a drastic effect on the quality of health care in peripheral areas. “This is a death blow” to “the closing of gaps in medical care” between the center of the country and peripheral areas, he wrote. The Finance Ministry said in response that its hands were tied, and that nothing could be done until a new policy was decided upon by the government.