What happens when a hospital wants to buy an MRI scanner on the public’s dime?

The answer is that waits for approval for over three years. Just like in the case of the PET-CT scanners that Shomrim covered in a previous investigation, Israel lags far behind other OECD countries when it comes to MRI scanners. The reason is not lack of funding, but a government policy to limit spending on healthcare and to scale back expensive tests. As a result, patients are being scheduled for tests in the middle of the night and must wait months for an appointment. When one delves deeper into the picture, one finds – yet again – that those in remote communities have it worst. A Shomrim follow-up.

The answer is that waits for approval for over three years. Just like in the case of the PET-CT scanners that Shomrim covered in a previous investigation, Israel lags far behind other OECD countries when it comes to MRI scanners. The reason is not lack of funding, but a government policy to limit spending on healthcare and to scale back expensive tests. As a result, patients are being scheduled for tests in the middle of the night and must wait months for an appointment. When one delves deeper into the picture, one finds – yet again – that those in remote communities have it worst. A Shomrim follow-up.

The answer is that waits for approval for over three years. Just like in the case of the PET-CT scanners that Shomrim covered in a previous investigation, Israel lags far behind other OECD countries when it comes to MRI scanners. The reason is not lack of funding, but a government policy to limit spending on healthcare and to scale back expensive tests. As a result, patients are being scheduled for tests in the middle of the night and must wait months for an appointment. When one delves deeper into the picture, one finds – yet again – that those in remote communities have it worst. A Shomrim follow-up.

Daniel Dolev

Photo: Shutterstock

January 5, 2022

Summary

Last November, Shomrim published an extensive report by Renen Netzer, in which we revealed how the limit on the number of PET-CT scanners in Israeli hospitals has created a situation in which patients wait many months for their appointments. The report highlighted the disparity in availability experienced by people living in remote communities in the north and the south of the country compared to those in the center – and how people with connections to get an early appointment are charging thousands of shekels for their services. Shomrim can now reveal that the same policy of fiscal restrictions also applies to MRI scanners – with exactly the same dire consequences.

Of the 31 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that we examined, only three countries have fewer MRI scanners per capita than Israel: Hungary, Mexico and Colombia. In fact, Israel’s ratio of 5.2 scanners per million people is less than a third of the OECD average of 17 scanners per million people. Coupled with two other key indices – the dramatically low rate of MRI scans conducted in Israel and the highest utilization rate per scanner among all OECD member states – the situation that the government has created is a blatant anomaly.

If all that were not enough, like in the case of PET-CT machines, the national distribution of MRI scanners heavily favors residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, who have access to double the number of scanners compared to patients in the south and the north of the country – who once again find themselves at the bottom of the national healthcare pyramid. In Tel Aviv, for example, there is one MRI scanner for every 132,000 people, while in Jerusalem, it’s 178,000 people. In the Health Ministry’s Northern and Southern Districts, there is one scanner for every 240,000 people.

This is a summary of shomrim's story published in Hebrew.
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