Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Israel – CCXL. The Ma’abarot Stage (16 of 26)

When we arrived in Israel, there were two health funds: Clalit, and Macabi.

The premium for macabi was higher for it allowed you to choose your own doctor; as well, it imposed less restrictions in connection with diagnostic tests and drugs.  Thus, if required, your doctor could requisition expensive tests, or prescribe more expensive drugs.  It was akin to a private insurance, and as far as I remember, like insurance plans here in North America, there was co-pay and deductible; in other words, you needed to pay for a small portion of your medical care.

While we would have preferred to be with Macabi, as new immigrants we could not afford them.  Indeed, only the well-to-do segment of the population (or if it was offered by your employer) was a member of this fund.

That said, the health care we received from clalit was adequate; it was also free, at least at the beginning.  Once we had decent jobs, premiums were deducted from our paycheck.

So how did it work?

If you needed medical attention, you went to the closest clinic.  There you were given a number and waited until your turn came.  A given clinic had a given number of physicians, and any one of them will see you; next time, it could be a different doctor.  You could ask for a specific doctor, and if your request is granted, this will increase your wait time – which is already lengthy.

Doctors and nurses were paid a salary, thus the incentive to see as many patients as possible was not there.  There were doctors that worked privately, and their patients paid them directly, and got reimbursed by macabi, or simply paid for the visit if they weren’t insured.  Clalit didn’t follow such a system.

Prescriptions were filled at the clalit dispensary (and it was often part of the same clinic).  Medicines were free of charge.  And here there was a problem; the doctor prescribed a cheaper brand of a given drug to save money for the system.  There were private pharmacies, but immigrants could not have afforded them.  At any rate, the doctor would not have changed his prescription since this was the medication “that was best for you.”

On occasion, the balagan (chaos) that reigned in a given clinic made it difficult to believe that medical care was dispensed in this place.  It was certainly not caused by the staff but rather by the patients.  Patients came up with all kind of excuses to avoid waiting; it did work if your excuse was really valid.  At times, people just came off the street to ask for medical advice!  Since they talked with a pakid (clerk) who had no medical training, they were urged to see a doctor; they rarely consented, they just needed quick advice.  Being used to the way of the Israelis, the personnel took it all in stride.

Despite all the above mentioned, and based on my own experience, I have to say that the care I received was for the most part satisfactory, at times superior.

At the beginning, when we saw a doctor, we were surprised when he wrote furiously what was transpiring during the visit.  Why was that necessary?  In Egypt (back in the forties and fifties) my doctor had all the relevant information written on a small card!  The rest was in his head!  The staff had to explain to us the necessity of charting and in having your own file.  Any doctor that you visited could by referring to your file, know your history, and treat you accordingly.  Surprisingly, most of the patients that came from less advanced countries didn’t argue anymore about the need to have a chart for every patient.  Indeed, they proclaimed that it was a good idea!

I previously said that Israelis tell like it is.  But there are exceptions.  The staff at the various clinics must surely have thought that we were primitive, but they didn’t say it out loud!

What about hospital care?  Mercifully, neither I, nor any member of my family needed to be admitted to a hospital.  But based on what I heard from other immigrants, the care was good.

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