Members of The Movement for Public Journalism, accompanied by a Sokolov Award winning journalist, have made 500 phone calls and mapped the issues regarding doctors’ appointments In Israel, through different public healthcare providers, in different areas and with different medical departments. It led The Ministry of Health to adopt the method
There is almost no person in Israel who has not had to make an appointment to see a professional doctor and was left frustrated by the long waiting times, which can often last many months. Is this a personal problem or a widespread social phenomenon? And how much do the waiting times change - if it all - in different areas, different public healthcare providers and different types of doctors? Since The Ministry of Health did not have enough data, and the public health providers have an interest in sugarcoating reality, we have decided to research the situation using journalistic tools.
Mostly as a result of the absence of resources and time, a normal journalistic story would have been based on phone calls with some experts, examples of some frustrating personal stories and perhaps attempts in making ten appointments over the phone in order to create data. Cooperation between the public and a journalistic organization has enabled more meaningful research from which strong and diverse statements could be derived regarding the issue.
Nine graduates of pre-military gap-year programs of the Halutz organisation, who volunteered at The Movement of Public Journalism, joined forces with TheMarker’s health correspondent Ronny Linder, one of the top journalists in Israel and winner of the Sokolov Award. Together, we built a methodology by which the active members of the research called four public health providers and tried to make an appointment using different segments we’ve chosen - eight different specialist doctors in eight different towns that exemple the diversity of Israel.
The task was simple: to ask when is the earliest appointment they have available for a certain doctor in a certain town in the chosen healthcare provider. All phone calls were recorded to avoid mistakes. After two months and 500 phone calls the mission was complete: we’ve created a table with reliable data that shows the appointments problems in the public healthcare system.
The results are in front of you: The project was published as the front page headline in TheMarker newspaper and was spread across pages 1-5 alongside the commentary from Ronny Linder, and was on the front page of Haaretz.
Linder wrote a commentary column on this topic, that focused the double standard public healthcare companies have, a sequel report that suggested five solutions to the appointment issue, and was also interviewed on the project in the morning show of channel 13.
The Public Broadcasting Corporation took the subject upon itself, and also cooperated with The Movement for Public Journalism in a similar project.
The issue didn’t only receive a lot of exposure (which is worth a lot of money) and impacted the public’s mindset as it is framed as a larger social issue, but also created pressure on decision makers: a year later Globes published that The MInistry of Health adopted the methodology and started researching the issue themselves.