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Photo by: Piotr Fliter/Ramban Medical Center
Medical residents: Resignations may be unstoppable
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
07/10/2011
If no agreement reached, resident says, young doctors' anger will grow; residents agree to delay move until after Yom Kippur amid talks.
 
Medical residents continued talks with the Finance Ministry Friday morning ahead of Yom Kippur after agreeing to postpone their resignations from hospitals until Monday to ensure adequate medical care over Yom Kippur and the first two days of next week but said that if no agreement was reached by then, resignations may be unstoppable.

They came under pressure from the National Labor Court, which declined to let them resign over what they claim are unfair conditions agreed upon in the Israel Medical Association’s nine-year labor agreement with the employers, which was signed at the end of August.

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Doctor Aviv Shaul, a medical resident at Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, told Israel Radio Friday that if no agreement is reached, "it will no longer be under our control," adding that anger is growing among residents.

Deputy head of the Budgetary Division at the Finance Ministry Moshe Bar Simon-Tov told Israel Radio that both sides feel that there is a chance of reaching an agreement. He added that it is possible to solve the dispute without opening the collective agreement signed earlier this year with doctors.


Thursday, representatives of the young doctors had meeting after meeting and reiterated their intention to resign, even though without court approval, they would be in contempt of court and be liable to face a two-year prison sentence.

Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman met in his office earlier in the day and heard their demands for higher pay, set periods for rest and other demands. Previously, Prime Minister (and formally health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu tried to persuade the doctors to remain in their jobs until after Succot to allow the negotiators a last opportunity to bridge the gaps.

Thursday morning, 50 residents at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and a handful at Sheba Medical Center did not show up on the job. Hospital directors were instructed by the Health Ministry and the Civil Service Commission to send personal messages to each of them saying that they must appear by 11.30 a.m. or be dismissed permanently and be accused of contempt of court. Most of the doctors went to work.

To prevent outright chaos in the event that 700 residents resign from their posts in the wards and emergency rooms, the Health Ministry opened a situation room in its Rehov Rivka office that would coordinate and make arrangements for specialists to fill the holes; ministry officials know that the arrangements would be only temporary.

Dozens of medical residents who failed to show up for their shifts at Ichilov and Sheba Hospitals Thursday morning showed up in the early afternoon, Army Radio reported, bending to a ruling by the National Labor Court. Doctors at Sheba Hospital announced their decision to suspend their resignations until Monday, in accordance with the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request.

Their failure to report to work represented the first time that significant numbers of residents in a labor dispute did not show up for work since their mass resignation in September.

The absence of some 50 residents reportedly caused widespread confusion in the hospitals, despite the fact that most of the over 700 residents who initially resigned heeded Wednesday's court decision.
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