Survey Reveals Gaps in Primary Health Care Between Jews & Arabs

A survey on the general public’s satisfaction with the primary care they receive from their family physician conducted by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) with the help of iPanel reveals significant gaps between Jews and Arabs.

The survey, which included 600 respondents across a geographically representative sample, shows significant gaps between the Jewish and Arab sectors with respect to multiple parameters: elapsed time before an appointment can be made, wait time at the clinics themselves, clinic accessibility by public transportation, and clear differences in the attention, time and patience physicians give their patients.

One step in the right direction: "Here a clinic will be built" at a site in the Negev

One step in the right direction: “Here a clinic will be built” at a site in the Negev (Photo: Activestills)

In recent years, the gaps in health care between Jews and Arabs have been the focus of public and academic discourse. Different studies point to differences between Jews and Arabs in average life expectancy, morbidity rates, infant mortality and more. There is tangible evidence that medical care professionals working in the Arab sector lack sufficient training.

The quality of primary care has a tremendous impact on inequality in health between Arabs and Jews. Inaccessibility deters patients from consulting with physicians, an experience that can be unpleasant even in optimal conditions. There is little wonder, then, that preventable or curable diseases are much more prevalent in the Arab sector, from smoking-related diseases to the incidence of diabetes.

Without proper investment in primary care, conditions that could have been diagnosed and prevented or treated early are discovered only at a stage where treatment and rehabilitation are far more expensive – with the cost borne by the health care system and taxpayers. The “savings” on preventative medicine are swallowed by the high cost of emergency care, long hospital stays, medication and everything these involve.

This state of affairs is exacerbated by the capitation system, in which the payment of fees to doctors is based on the number of patients seen, and which mostly hurts disempowered groups that require multiple services, particularly preventative care. Under this system, Israeli health funds have little incentive to improve the quality of the services they provide and prefer not to invest too much in these population groups.

Physicians for Human Rights concluded the report on their survey by noting: “The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance bear a responsibility to find a solution for this situation and ensure a fair and equal distribution of resources within health funds, while strengthening those given to the geographic and social periphery.”