Top Earners in Israel's Public Sector: Hospital Physicians

These are the real top earners - but you won’t see that in the official wage report for government employees.

The real top earners in the public sector are hospital physicians, but you won’t see that in the official wage report for government employees. We’re talking about doctors with multiple employers, whose monthly salary can exceed 100,000 shekels ($28,669).

The Finance Ministry’s wage report, issued earlier this week, said dozens of physicians employed by Clalit Health Services were the public sector’s top earners. But the report left out doctors at government hospitals. Many of them receive a separate salary from the hospital and from the hospital’s corporate subsidiary, which manages the hospital’s affairs in the afternoon.

The hardest salaries to track down are those of doctors at the public hospitals, which include Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) and Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, as a result of the dual-employer issue mentioned above. In addition to the separate paychecks for morning and afternoon work, some physicians receive additional payment in exchange for working exclusively at the hospital.

For legal reasons, the ministry cannot combine the reports for both organizations.

But we can: TheMarker obtained 2012 wage figures for the government hospitals, with the exception of Sourasky.

It turns out that Prof. Gabriel Sandro, head of vascular surgery at Be’er Sheva Soroka Medical Center, is not actually the public sector’s best paid employee, as reported earlier this week. Sandro, who earns 106,000 shekels a month, is out-earned by a doctor at Sheba, who receives 117,000 shekels a month, or 1.4 million shekels a year.

Sandro is in second place, followed by several senior physicians at the Clalit HMO and a top executive at Meuhedet. Dr. Zeev Aharonson, head of medicine at the HMO, is paid 100,000 shekels a month.

Two years ago, TheMarker published figures that included Sourasky: One doctor there was earning 134,000 shekels a month, or 1.6 million shekels a year.

After combining all the sources of income, it turns out that 71 members of Israel’s public health system earned more than 80,000 a month on average in 2012. Seven of them earned more than 100,000 a month on average.

In addition, there were three interns who earned 88,000 to 94,000 a month thanks in part to grants given under the new wage agreement.

The hospitals’ corporations, sometimes called research funds, are intended to enable the hospitals to use their infrastructure beyond their regular operations, and help finance doctors’ salaries and buy equipment. They are subject only in part to government and public oversight.

The hospitals argue that Israel’s freedom of information laws do not apply to these corporations, making it nearly impossible to find complete information on the hospitals’ operations.

Attorney Alona Winograd, head of the Movement for Freedom of Information, rejects this argument, stating that the corporations are an integral part of the hospitals’ operations.

The Finance Ministry’s wages director, Kobi Amsalem, notes that the corporations started off as a good idea but grew to absurd proportions, to the point where salaries are competing with those in the private sector.

“I want experienced doctors to work for the corporations – conducting surgery in the afternoon and working full-time at the hospital – but what’s been happening here over the past few years shows how problematic it is when doctors in the public health system meet private sector salaries,” he said.

The corporations can compete for manpower based on salaries, but this goes against the nature of the public sector, said Amsalem.

The fact that hospital heads can pay top doctors high salaries, and pay them in order to work only at the hospital, has been pushing hospital salaries upward, he noted. This isn’t happing in other parts of the public sector, he added, stating that a centralized wage policy is supposed to prevent this competition over wages.

“But we’re in a market economy – the prices stem from the doctors’ alternative employment options,” Amsalem said.

Tomer Appelbaum