Israelis seeking relief from severe pain at the country's hospital clinics face an average wait of three to four months to see a doctor, a new report by the organization representing Israeli pain specialists states.
The Israel Pain Association adds that wait times are shorter for patients at HMO community clinics, where they range from an average of three weeks to two months.
Treatment at many HMO clinics does not include injections for pain that are available at hospital outpatient pain clinics, the group adds.
The report notes that once patients manage to see a pain clinic doctor at a hospital, they frequently must then wait several additional months for injections which are administered using imaging equipment such as X-rays.
At Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, for example, wait times are reportedly three months for a pain clinic appointment and another three months for an injection. At Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tivka, there is reportedly a three to six-month wait for a clinic appointment and another half-year wait for injections.
The Health Ministry explains: "The primary and most important treatment for patients with chronic pain is treatment in the community. The availability [of treatment] at hospitals is for more complex procedures. At any rate, this is a new specialty and most of the pain treatment needs to be provided by the treating [family] physician."
At Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem there is a three to four-month wait for a clinic appointment and a three-month wait for the injections, while patients at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center reportedly have to wait an average of four months for an appointment at the clinic, but only another two weeks for the actual injection.
The Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, which has a relatively large staff of pain physicians, reports a three to four-month wait for a clinic appointment and a subsequent two to three-week wait for an injection using imaging equipment.
"The number of physician slots at hospital pain management clinics needs to be increased," said Dr. Silvio Brill, who heads the pain treatment unit at Ichilov and is also chairman of the Israel Pain Association. "Increased awareness on the part of the public has led to an additional 10,000 [patient] visits in the past three years alone just at Ichilov. The demand for treatment is increasing, and we don't have the ability to respond to those suffering from pain."
Dr. Itay Gur-Arie, who heads the pain unit at Sheba Medical Center, said one of the reasons for the increased demand for medical treatment is the sharp rise in patients seeking permission to use marijuana for pain. There are now 7,000 such patients. "Every patient receiving medicinal marijuana requires follow-up once every three months, and at some of the follow-up visits they seek to have their permission [to use marijuana] renewed. These patients alone add about 28,000 appointments at various pain clinics, which has led to a substantial increase in workload," he said.
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