(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A 24-hour strike will begin at 8:00 a.m. Thursday after hectic overnight talks between the Treasury and Doctors' Union failed to reach an agreement. The strike will put public general, psychiatric, geriatric and rehabilitation hospitals around the country on a much-reduced Shabbat schedule.
Only urgent dialysis, intensive care, emergency departments, delivery rooms, cancer wards and post-natal intensive care units working normally. A special Israel Medical Association exceptions committee will decide whether to give in-vitro fertilization treatments in specific cases.
In response to the decision, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Thursday morning that the strike was "unnecessary" and suggested an ulterior motive was undergirding the action.
"This strike is unnecessary, done without real reason and does not benefit public medical services or the health-care system," said Litzman through a press release to the media.
"The Ministry of Health has intensive contacts with the Ministry of Finance," Litzman continued, "to strengthen the public health system, plus beds, manpower and other resources."
"It is hard to escape the feeling that what's driving this strike is something other than the public interest, which has led to the decision to turn off the healthcare system at any price," he concluded.
Even though the Health and Finance Ministry have canceled plans to prohibit hospital department heads from doing private work – to which the IMA strongly objected - the doctors pulled out other reasons for their strike, which is its first work action since it signed a new contract with the employers exactly five years ago at the end of a long doctor’s strike.
The strike could also be a significant immediate loss of funds to the Treasury, however, as one day without outpatient clinics and diagnostic institutes being open means that government hospitals will go without that income.
Doctors made it clear they would not walk off completely but they also said they would refuse to carry out anything but emergency procedures, and there will be fewer of them on the wards in public general, psychiatric, geriatric and rehabilitation hospitals – those owned and run by the Health Ministry, as well as those run by Clalit Health Services and voluntary hospitals (except Laniado, in Netanya, which put a no-strike clause in all workers’ contracts).
IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman accused the Treasury of “harming our ability to treat patients, and its proposed Arrangements Bill tightens the noose on our throat.” He demanded that all the bill’s sections that would affect the health system be canceled and that the government hold negotiations on any changes it wants to carry out, as well as regarding job slots and budgets. Other reasons given are the lack of enough doctors on the job, and that the burden of long hours, especially on young residents learning a specialty, is worse than ever.
The IMA also came out in opposition to the Treasury proposal to “significantly punish” through fines those hospital directors who do not meet budgetary targets.
Hospitals will be penalized by not getting development funds and money to cover the costs of drugs for patients, he added. “This is so even though the hospital and health fund budgets are inadequate to provide 21st-century medicine to the population,” he added.