Public-sector doctors are set to begin a two-day “warning strike” on Tuesday
morning after talks between the Israel Medical Association and the Treasury
concluded on Monday night without any breakthrough.
The sides agreed on
another meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
IMA declares work dispute for public-sector
The Health Ministry urged the
IMA and the Finance Ministry to negotiate until they reached agreement on wages,
conditions and improvements in the health system.
The last time the IMA
went on strike was 11 years ago, and it continued for months, although it was
not a walkout that abandoned patients.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov
Litzman said that starting Wednesday, talks would be conducted daily by ministry
Ronni Gamzu and Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak
Cohen, alternating between their offices. They would, he said, aim to find a
balance among concern about patients, improving the status of doctors and
honoring current wage agreements in other sectors.
If the strike is not
canceled before Tuesday morning, public hospitals will be most affected, as
doctors will work on a limited Shabbat schedule, while Clalit and Leumit clinics
will seriously reduce services – including scheduled visits to doctors. Maccabi
Health Services and Kupat Holim Meuhedet will operate normally.
the warning strike, dialysis treatment for kidney patients (three per week) will
continue, the ministry ordered on Monday, as will in-vitro fertilization
treatments in community clinics.
Hormone treatments will be given in
hospitals to women who have been prepared for them in
advance. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy will be available to those who
need them according to strict protocols.
In operating rooms, lifesaving
surgery will be performed during the strike, and activity in intensive care
units, emergency departments and delivery rooms will continue as normal. Appeals
committees will be set up in all the hospitals to rule on other
The ministry said that hospital directors would shift
manpower according to crowding in the various departments.
Health funds will run urgent medical
care centers during the week according to a reduced Shabbat schedule if these
centers are closed. The insurers must update their members so they are informed
about what is still available.
The Health Ministry, meanwhile, was hard
put to explain Litzman’s remark to Army Radio’s Yael Dan that it was “just a
curiosity that during the last doctors’ strike [over] 10 years ago, fewer
Doctors were infuriated by the statement, which seemed
intentional rather than an unfortunate slip of the tongue.
her shock over the remark, but Litzman did not apologize or rescind his comment
at the end of the interview. Litzman later issued a statement claiming it had
been in jest.
It is well known that when elective surgery is performed,
some lives are lost in surgery, but that if the patients were operated on later,
they would die anyway.
Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, herself a gynecologist by
training, attacked Litzman for his statement about fewer deaths during doctors’
“Litzman is spitting at the doctors,” she said.
an unworthy, unfortunate statement and should not have been uttered,” Adatto
added. “The fact is that physicians work long shifts, sometimes over 24 hours at
a time, while hospitalization conditions are unfit for patients and
She charged that “instead of helping doctors by demanding
manpower increases and improving conditions, the deputy minister makes jokes as
if strikes make it better for patients.”
Litzman’s spokesman retorted
that he “forgoes MK Adatto’s advice on helping doctors.
While Adatto and
her party did nothing when they were in government for doctors and the health
system, the Health Ministry [under Litzman] for the first time in a decade
achieved agreement for the expansion of hospital beds by hundreds, an expansion
of the health budget, more nurses and more important steps.”
spokesman added that the warning strike was “all about salaries. The deputy
minister supports improving wage conditions, especially in the periphery, and
even suggested a solution of allowing private medical services in public
hospitals in return for agreement to using a time clock [that the Treasury
demands]. But he is against a strike that could risk lives, especially when the
negotiations have not reached completion.”
The Treasury said in a
statement that the strike could still be prevented by the IMA’s willingness to
negotiate and that an agreement could be reached by arbitration.
would be preferable that the doctors focus on advancing negotiations or on
responding to the state’s offer to begin an agreed-upon arbitration process, in
order not to harm the public,” the ministry said.
The Labor Party stated
that it supported the doctors, who “do holy work under very difficult conditions
around the clock and throughout the year.”
It called on Prime Minister
and Health Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to call together the two sides for
round-the-clock negotiations to prevent harm to patients. It is clear that he
should intervene, the party said, and best if he does so to head off the
Meidad Gissin, head of the health committee in the Pensioners
Party and head of the Hatzvi patient consumers’ organization, also called on
Netanyahu to intervene.
“The doctors are right,” he said. “The health
system is collapsing.”
At Monday’s cornerstone-laying ceremony for
buildings for the Safed medical school’s campus, Deputy Prime Minister Silvan
Shalom said, “The doctors put public medicine on the agenda and the gaps between
the center and the periphery. A new medical school will help reduce the serious
shortage of doctors and improve medical services in the region.”Nadav
Shemer contributed to this report.
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