Doctors deal is tonic for periphery

Doctors in central Israel now want to ambush Eidelman, but he deserves great credit. This is a Zionist agreement, if you’ll forgive the pomposity.

August 25, 2011 05:50
3 minute read.
IMA chief Leonid Eidelman in hunger strike

Leonid Eidelman 311. (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)


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Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman has believed for a long time that if he were just to sign an agreement giving doctors substantial pay hikes on an individual basis, no resident would resign. No hospital administrator would go out and tell the doctors that no one was forcing them to punch a clock.

But Eidelman committed a cardinal sin: When he launched his campaign to rescue Israel’s public health system and health care in the periphery, he really meant it.

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Everyone – including this writer – thought this was mere tactics to get higher wages, but it turns out Eidelman’s words and deeds were the same. Doctors in central Israel now want to ambush him, but he deserves great credit.

This is a Zionist agreement, if you’ll forgive the pomposity.

This agreement gives especially large pay hikes to doctors who reside in areas where private medicine does not reach. It gives hundreds of thousands of shekels in incentives to doctors willing to move from central Israel to the North or South, even for just four years. Just go.

This agreement awards a 54 percent pay hike for neonatal and emergency-care specialists, whose numbers are dwindling fast. These specialists are disappearing because Assuta Medical Center Ltd.

has no emergency rooms or neonatal wards at its private hospitals. The specialists work only at government hospitals, which provide their whole livelihoods, and someone has finally found it proper to compensate them fairly.

Eidelman would not have signed this agreement without a determined regulator. It is not popular to say so, but the government acted well in this crisis. At the start of the dispute, the government announced that the bulk of resources in an agreement would be channeled to the periphery and for specialists in fields with shortages.

Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman repeatedly reiterated this principle.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave him the backing he needed, including on the issue of time clocks. The Israel Medical Association realized that the rules of the game had changed: No matter how long the labor dispute lasted, the government would stand on these principles. How shall we put it? That is very rare in our region.

Prof. Yitzhak Peterburg, who mediated between the parties and did the almost impossible, understands the doctors who object to the agreement.

“For example, a specialist who works hard by every measure, can and should have his job conditions improved,” he said. “But there is no silver bullet for solving all the problems overnight.”

Peterburg has served as the head of Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, CEO of Clalit Health Services and CEO of Cellcom Israel Ltd.

He wants for things to be viewed in proportion.

“I am one of those people who believe that Israel’s public health system is one of the best in the world,” he said.

“That does not mean that there isn’t room for improvement and corrections, but a labor contract cannot correct everything. This is one of the most complex agreements I have ever seen, including in the business world. This was an attempt to deal with structural national problems at the root of the system.”

Peterburg was apparently unable to persuade the angry doctors. They are sure that everyone is wrong: that Peterburg is an example of a doctor who turned into a manager and thinks like one.

But the system needs good managers, and this week, Peterburg proved that he is one of them.

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