Health care professionals are flocking to make Aliyah to Israel, a Knesset committee discussion revealed this week – and solutions are being sought to make the transition easier.
The Labor, Welfare and Health Committee and Immigration and Absorption Committees held a joint discussion Tuesday on the subject of professional licensing for new immigrants.
Knesset researcher Flora Koch-Davidovich told the hearing that in the last 3 years, 1,594 immigrants to Israel have been licensed as professionals in the health sector – 3.9% of all immigrants since 2013. Of those, 29% have immigrated from Russia; 26%, from the Ukraine; 9%, from the US; and 7%, from France. 34% were physicians and 18% psychologists.
Health care professionals are obligated to obtain certification or a license to practice the profession in Israel – a requirement which proves a major barrier not only for immigrants to achieve full absorption, but for encouraging health care professionals to move to Israel in general. Just 37% of foreign medical professionals who immigrated to Israel successfully passed their medical licensing exams since 2013.
"A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who immigrated to Israel committed suicide because he could not become a professional here," MK Eli Elalouf (Kulanu) revealed to the Knesset session. "The parties concerned need to do some soul-searching. It is absurd that a large portion of the immigrants cannot put their skills into practice."
Chairman of the Immigration and Absorption Committee, MK Avraham Biton (Likud), noted that immigrants who fail their licensing exams are more likely to return to their countries of origin.
"Our national mission is to embrace immigrants and help them integrate into society," he lamented. "Despite all efforts, there are still many problems."
Health care professionals on the team reminded MKs, however, that a balance needs to be achieved to maintain a certain level of healthcare.
"We should make every effort to help them, but we have a responsibility to maintain the professional level of those who take care of all of us, and we must find the right balance," Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Health, Prof. Arnon Afek, stated. "Licensing Exam Prep courses have proven themselves as worthy; immigrants who take them have an exam success rate of 80%."
Workers guilds, however, are reluctant to accept new immigrants – licensed or not, MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu) and Dr. Michael Ben-Saadoun, CEO of the Umbrella Organization for French Aliyah and Absorption, noted.
To address all issues, both committees will hold a joint session again in two months.