It’s hard enough getting around in a foreign language when you are healthy, especially a giant bureaucracy like the Israeli health care system. Can you imagine doing it when you have a major illness? It is most definitely an obstacle that needs to be conquered. When we came to Israel, I falsely assumed that since healthcare is science and English is the universal language of science that everything would be easily accessible in English as well as in Hebrew. What a mistake! I know we lost out on several rights because we didn’t understand the system then and it has followed us to today- we never knew we had to “transfer” our youngest to a new Tipat Chalav when we moved so we were told we had to get the polio vaccine in our old neighborhood- a two hour drive away! Fortunately I have become a lot more aggressive since then and knew the right people to call and make things happen. Most people, especially immigrants, don’t have those connections and subsequently do not fully utilize the services available to them. There have been several articles documenting this phenomenon in different areas of Israeli healthcare- hospitals, Pap smears, vaccination and more. Even the OECD remarked a disparity in the quality of care for immigrants (among other populations) as compared to native Israelis. However, most of the studies and the subsequent attention paid to remedy this disparity has focused on the Ethiopian and the former Soviet Union populations, which are more numerous than the Anglo population. However, in 2011 the Director-General of the Ministry of Health wrote a directive (in English) requiring English accessibility from healthcare providers, starting February 2013. Has anyone noticed a change yet?
Fortunately, there is the Shira Pransky Project. This web site has an impressive assortment of information to help navigate the healthcare system in Israel- from Bituach Leumi to rights of the mentally ill to speech therapy to long term care insurance. They also have a Facebook page. I highly recommend that everyone bookmark this page – hopefully you won’t need it!