The doctors’ struggle for a reorganization of the health system, increased manpower and higher wages will take “many more weeks and even months,” Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said on Sunday for the first time.

Sanctions in the hospitals and the community health fund clinics have been intermittent over the past six weeks; negotiations with senior Finance Ministry bureaucrats have also been intermittent, fruitless and sometimes hostile.

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The IMA, which has around 20,000 members in public medicine, held a conference on pathology at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and presented data on the difficulties in the field. The severe shortage of pathologists – who work behind the scenes in public hospitals and have no opportunities in private practice – has put a heavy burden on existing specialists, especially in the diagnosis of cancer.

“The State of Israel has moved to medicine of... putting out fires. There is no future if we do not bring about change,” Eidelman said.

“The Treasury has dug in its heels. It doesn’t believe that the condition of public medicine is so bad that doctors are leaving the country, moving to private medicine and even leaving the profession,” the IMA chairman added.

On Independence Day on Tuesday, the IMA will hold events in public parks where large numbers of people will spend the holiday. Activities will be held between 10 a.m.

and 1 p.m. at the National Park in Ramat Gan, Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv, Ben-Shemen Forest, Eshkol Park and the Carmel Forest.

There are only 119 working pathologists in the country, and 60 percent are aged 50 and over. In five years, said Eidelman, the number of specialists in the field will decline by 10%.

Dr. Yitzhak Ziv-Ner, deputy chairman of the IMA and head of the State Doctors Union, said that manpower slots were set for pathology in 1976 and the figure is no longer relevant.

In its talks with the Treasury, the IMA has asked for a special benefits package that would improve salaries rather than reduce them when pathologists are away from their hospital jobs on study leave or on vacation.

There are only 1.96 pathologists per 100,000 residents in Israel, compared to 4.43 in the US, added Dr. Yehudit Zandenbank of Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, who is chairman of the Pathologists Society.

“Here, they conduct twice as many pathology tests as abroad. This opens the possibility of errors in cancer patients, which can be critical for them. The situation is even worse in peripheral hospitals than in the center of the country.”

Prof. Iris Barshek, director of Sheba’s pathology institute, said that while most people think that most of the pathologists’ work is autopsies, only a small number do this; most work on live patients and diagnose tumors and determine treatment such as surgery.

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