Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday evening that dozens of doctors working in the field left Israel for Britain as Israel's mental health system collapsed after October 7. Before that, directors of mental health centers said the events of October 7 had resulted in the presence of about 300,000 additional psychiatric patients.
Since October 7, the Israeli military has been waging a war on Gaza that as of Monday has killed 21,978 people, wounded 57,697, caused massive infrastructure destruction and an unprecedented humanitarian disaster, according to Gaza Strip officials and the United Nations.
Dozens of psychiatrists working in the public health system have recently left for Britain, sources in the department said.
The wave of departures comes at a time when demand for mental health care is increasing in the country in light of the war, and now the mental health system is facing a real problem.
He explained that plans for the exodus of psychiatrists had begun before the war, in the wake of a judicial reform plan adopted by the government that the opposition described as a coup.
A senior manager of a mental health organization who spoke to one of the doctors who left (he did not name them) was quoted as saying: “In Britain, they don't enjoy high salaries, but what drives them to leave is frustration with heavy workloads and a sense that it is difficult to see “how things will improve in the future”.
According to the same speaker, the mental health system in Britain is more organized, less overcrowded and shorter working hours.
According to the newspaper, even before the current wave, the mental health system was suffering from a severe shortage of psychiatrists, and the matter was getting progressively worse. According to official data, there is one psychiatrist for every public service in Israel. 11,705 residents.
300,000 additional psychiatric patients
Dr. Shmuel Hirschman, president of the Forum for Directors of Psychiatric Centers, said the mental health system currently has a shortage of about 400 psychiatrists, and he warned that the shortage would double in 5 years. According to the same source, they are approaching retirement age or beyond.
On Thursday, Haaretz reported that the board of directors of mental health centers sent a letter to state comptroller Matanyaku Engelman, in which he wrote: “We are contacting you with a cry and despair about the difficult situation of the mental health system.”
The directors wrote in their letter: “The events of October 7 resulted in the presence of approximately 300,000 additional psychiatric patients who would need treatment at the hands of a specialist trained in Israel.”
“Furthermore, it remains to be seen how many combat troops will face battlefield repercussions from the fighting in the Gaza Strip,” they said. “We're already seeing an increase in demand for mental health services.”
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