Emigrant Physicians Evaluate the Health Care System of the Former Soviet Union

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Abstract

This study is a retrospective evaluation of the Soviet health care system by 1,100 Jewish physicians who immigrated to Israel in 1990, but were professionally active in the former Soviet Union before and during the Gorbachev era. Medical education and the process of specialization; gender differences within the medical profession; sources of work satisfaction and dissatisfaction; self-evaluations of professional behavior; and assessments of patient behavior are included in this empirical study. Although high levels of dissatisfaction were found regarding instrumental aspects of work, the physicians reported high levels of satisfaction with their relationships with colleagues and patients. The recent emigrants assessed their own role behavior and that of their patients more critically than did physicians who left the Soviet Union in 1972, and who answered identical questions in 1975. Among the recent emigrants, men, older physicians, and those with higher status within the profession tended to be more satisfied with their work and less critical about their own and their patients' behavior than their female, younger and lower status colleagues. The subjective perceptions of former “insiders,” which complement the reports that have appeared in recent years in the medical literature, are discussed in terms of the impact of glasnost and perestroika on reporting behavior and on the real deterioration that occurred in the health care system of the former Soviet Union.

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