Medical residents agreed on Monday night to postpone their resignations for a
period of 48 hours.
Resignation letters turned into the Health Ministry
by about 700 medical residents – over dissatisfaction with the labor contract
reached last month – were scheduled to come into effect in the coming days,
beginning on Tuesday.
The residents and the Finance Ministry will use the
two-day window to hold negotiations in hopes of coming to an
The medical residents, their employers and the government had
hoped Monday night to find a compromise to avert the most acute blow facing the
public health system: The young doctors’ resignations, leaving a gaping hole in
manpower to treat hospital patients.
Without a compromise, all the sides
have much to lose, as the physicians would not be given their jobs back once
they carried out their threats to leave, and the Health Ministry desperately
looked for other doctors to fill their places.
Their representatives were
present late Monday at the National Labor Court, which was hearing a request
from government lawyers for restraining orders to ensure that all the doctors
not be allowed to resign simultaneously, but rather to do so gradually – if they
insist on leaving – to give the ministry time to locate
Court President Judge Nili Arad advised residents to suspend
their letters of resignation for the next 10 days and continue negotiations with
the Israel Medical Association and the Health and Finance Ministries under the
auspices of the court. Arad also advised the ministries to delay the discussion
of injunctions to prevent resignations.
In its request, the state also
asked the court to rule the doctors’ resignations are collective in nature, and
therefore illegal and void, and to prevent Mirsham, the voluntary organization
representing the residents, from encouraging what it called the “illegal
activities” of doctors in violation of the court’s previous ruling in early September.
The medical residents, largely from government hospitals in
the center of the country, will have to return their equipment immediately –
from stethoscopes to cellular phones and laptops – and entry cards to the
hospitals if they do not turn up for work on Tuesday.
According to a
report on Channel 2, the Civil Service Commission sent the residents warning
letters before Rosh Hashana saying anyone who lived in government hospital
facilities would have to leave immediately and none of them would be reaccepted
to their positions at a later date.
The doctors – who have been joined in
the protest by a few dozen medical specialists – are protesting what they call
improper treatment in the new labor agreement signed by the IMA five weeks ago.
They want higher wages, better conditions and more respect, they
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz urged the doctors to cancel their
resignation letters and accept the conditions of the contract signed by the IMA,
the doctors’ only officially recognized representative body.
Dr. Leonid Eidelman said the association opposed the state’s request for
restraining orders, and he added that while the contract could not be
renegotiated some additional benefits could be added by the
The National Health Council, which met in Jerusalem on Monday,
had also called on the residents to suspend their resignation letters until the
end of the High Holy Days to give time for talks to find a solution and prevent
risk to human life.
If the residents and specialists actually resign,
outpatient clinics will minimize their services; the number of nurses and
midwives in obstetrics departments will be increased; and non-emergency
operations will be reduced to a minimum.
Vacations by department heads
and other senior doctors will be cancelled in the eventuality of resignations.
Departments that have a serious shortage of manpower will be assisted by duty
doctors in the community, and veteran doctors – even pensioners – will do work
that residents usually do. But these arrangements cannot go on for more than a
The ministry will issue a press bulletin daily if the doctors
do not show up at work. The ministry will set up a situation room to
inform patients and relatives of the latest developments, and a ministry team
will visit affected hospitals and try to alleviate problems that
The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee scheduled
an urgent session for Wednesday at 12.30 p.m. to discuss the hospital crisis.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and ministry Director-General Prof. Ronni
Gamzu are expected to attend.
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