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Squabble Develops over Suggestion Soviet Doctors Are Delaying Aliyah

Officials of Israel’s Absorption Ministry and of the Jewish Agency for Israel are angry about a suggestion by the head of a major Israeli government hospital that Soviet doctors postpone or abandon plans for aliyah because of the surplus of medical practitioners here and consequent lack of jobs.

Soviet Jewry advocacy groups were also irked by the remarks of Professor Mordechai Shani, medical director of Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer.

Shani, who is in charge of implementing the government’s medical reform plan, told Israel Radio that the present ratio of 300 doctors per 100,000 population in Israel is much higher than in the West, where the most generous ratio is 250 per 100,000.

Under those conditions, the unemployment problem faced by immigrant doctors “cannot be solved,” Shani said. He suggested that Jewish medical professionals in the Soviet Union planning to come to Israel would do well to reconsider.

Some agency officials conceded privately that Shani may be right but should not have expressed himself publicly.

Top agency officials complained that Israel should be sending a different message, emphasizing that Jews should get out of the Soviet Union as quickly as possible.

But in fact, Shani’s remarks came on the heels of reports that fewer Soviet doctors are coming to Israel. They are refraining not only because of dismal job prospects but also because of the tough qualifying examinations they must pass, in keeping with the high medical standards prevailing in Israel. According to a report to the Cabinet, only 2,500 Soviet doctors immigrated to Israel in the first eight months of 1991, compared to 5,800 the year before.

The dwindling numbers were attributed to the stiff examinations, as the reverse is true of doctors with 20 or more years’ experience, who are exempt from the qualifying tests.

During 1990, 2,226 veteran physicians immigrated to Israel. In the first eight months of 1991, their number was 3,907.

But their practice must be supervised for the first six months and the Health Ministry needs to first six months and the Health Ministry needs to find an extra $3.5 million to pay for the supervision.

Tests are another matter. Ha’aretz reported Tuesday that only 600 of 8,900 Soviet doctors who immigrated since 1989 — less than 15 percent — passed the licensing examinations allowing them to practice in Israel.

But Moshe Mashiah, director general of the Health Ministry, reported to the Cabinet’s Absorption Committee Monday that 58 percent of 1,352 doctors who took the examination this year passed.

He reported that 1,280 Soviet doctors are taking special refresher courses at 15 hospitals all over Israel.

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