High Court justices criticize medical residents

Panel hears doctors' appeal to allow them to quit legally; Beinisch: "We should have rejected your petition."

November 17, 2011 16:32
3 minute read.
Empty hospital corridor [illustrative]

Hospital beds 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch on Thursday criticized medical residents who resigned this week, telling them, "We should have rejected your petition based on a lack of integrity, but we did not do so because of the special situation," she said.

Justice Hanan Meltzer also criticized the residents, asking them: "Couldn't you have waited a few days with the abandonment (of the hospitals)?"

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"You appealed to the High Court. There is a culture when one appeals to the High Court, one waits for the hearing," he added.

Beinisch, Meltzer and Justice Esther Hayut sat on the High Court panel that convened Thursday to discuss the medical residents' petition to be allowed to resign legally.

Sixty-five specialist doctors submitted resignation letters at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba on Thursday. Among the sixty five were ten department managers.

These resignations added to the 170 medical specialists who announced their resignations in the past few days in solidarity with the residents' struggle.

Discussing the health system crisis in an interview Thursday morning with Army Radio, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the specialist doctors should be compensated for their hard work.

Barak said that the Health Ministry should re-consider the agreement with the IMA.

"It's always possible to re-discuss agreements - human beings sign them, and they sometimes make mistakes," the defense minister explained.

"It's not necessary to pour money on the specialists, but the government needs to sit with the specialists and reach an agreement that is good for everyone," he added.

As hundreds of young and senior physicians continue to resign – on paper, if not yet in actual fact – the Treasury, meanwhile, filed an urgent plea to the Labor Court in Jerusalem for contempt-of-court orders. The Finance Ministry even included newspaper clippings of protests and positions to make its point to the court.

If the court accepts the state’s new request, any doctors who resign could be fined or even be jailed, with the aim of forcing them to observe the court orders to go back to hospitals. Some could even lose their license to practice medicine here or the ability to do so abroad.

“There is no reason that justifies abandoning patients and so there is no reason justifying the violation and contempt of the court’s ruling,” said the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office, which filed the request on behalf of the state. The state’s request to the National Labor Court comes a day before the High Court is due to convene a hearing on a petition filed by a group of medical residents against the National Labor Court’s October ruling.

The Health Ministry said Wednesday evening that a total of 315 medical residents did not show up at work.

The residents – now backed by dozens of senior hospital residents in the center of the country and Haifa – want the labor agreement signed in August after a long strike to be shortened to four years instead of nine. They maintain that the accord with the IMA serves the interest of senior doctors in the periphery and discriminates against those in hospitals that will not receive major financial incentives for moving to the periphery to boost medical care there.

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