Hospital Tomer Neuberg
Illustration: A hospital in Israel. Photo by Tomer Neuberg
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A new comparative report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development states that Israel has the highest hospital occupancy in the West. According to the report, the overall occupancy rate in the general hospitals in Israel is 96.3 percent, ahead of all the other 25 countries, including Britain (84.2 percent ), Germany (76.2 ), France (74.4 ), the United States (65.5 ) and Holland (52.7 ). The average for the member countries is 75.9 percent. The report presents the comparative findings for 2009.

The average length of stay in Israeli hospitals is one of the lowest in the West, only four days, with only Mexico ranked below Israel (3.9 days ), and all the other countries ahead of it, including France (5.2 days ), the U.S. (5.4 ), Britain (8.6 ) and Germany (7.5 ).

The overall ratio of hospital beds in Israel continues to be low (two beds per 1,000 people ), with only Finland (1.8 ) and Mexico (1.6 ) in a worse situation. According to the authors of the report, Nir Keidar and Tuvia Horev from the department of the economic and health insurance branch of the Health Ministry, "all the figures together attest to a maximum exploitation of the infrastructure of hospital beds in Israel."

According to additional figures in the report, the shortage of nurses in Israel is already in evidence: The percentage of nurses employed in Israel is among the lowest in the developed countries - an average of 4.5 nurses per 1,000 people - less than half the OECD average (9.1 per 1,000 ). However, the percentage of doctors per thousand people (4.3 per 1,000 ) is higher than the average in OECD member countries (3.1 ), and even than in the U.S. (2.4 ) and Britain (2.7 ).

Life expectancy in Israel is higher than the OECD average. The average life expectancy of an Israeli male is three years higher than the average for OECD members (79.9 years compared to 76.6 years ), and that of an Israeli female is 1.3 years higher than the average (83.5 compared to 82.2 ).

The infant mortality rate in Israel - 3.8 deaths per 1,000 births - is lower than the average in OECD countries of 4.4 per 1,000.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said in response to the findings that he is responsible for an additional 600 beds in the next six years, as the government decided in February, in order to improve Israel's situation relative to OECD countries. Currently, as part of the negotiations with doctors, their demand for an immediate addition of 1,000 additional hospital beds is under discussion.

According to the director general of the Health Ministry, Prof. Roni Gamzu, "the comparison to the OECD member countries attests on one hand to Israel's high place in the indexes of life expectancy, but also reflects the challenges facing the health system when it comes to our activity to reduce the infant mortality rate and adopt health-promoting behavior among the population, in areas such as encouraging physical activity and reducing the percentage of those suffering from being overweight, with a special effort being directed at reducing obesity among children, stopping smoking and reducing the rate of alcohol use."