Thousands of doctors begin 'warning strike'

Hospitals and clinics to operate on Shabbat schedule; negotiations with Treasury not set to resume for another day.

April 5, 2011 07:23
2 minute read.
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doctor 311. (photo credit: Avi Hayoun)


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Doctors around the country began a two-day warning strike in the public health and hospital system on Tuesday after a meeting between representatives from the Finance Ministry and the Israel Medical Association (IMA) ended with no agreement on Monday.

The public health sector and hospitals around the country will operate on a reduced Shabbat schedule.

Editorial: Prevent the doctors' strike
IMA declares work dispute for public-sector physicians

The Health Ministry said that it was working to accelerate the negotiations between the IMA and Treasury representatives. Per the request of deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman, daily meetings will be held between the two sides starting Wednesday in an effort to reach an agreement.

The IMA and the Treasury "must take public responsibility and reach a solution which will benefit all patients," the Health Ministry said after the meeting.

IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said the Finance Ministry has “dried up” the health system while the doctors didn’t strike for 11 years as part of an agreement for arbitration reached during the last round of substantial negotiations.

This time, the health system is “collapsing” due to Finance Ministry reduction of services and failure to expand them as needed by the growing and aging population, the IMA says.

The IMA said that the latest round of negotiations with the Treasury continued for eight months and ended with fruitless discussions, and that it hoped the authorities would “wake up” to prevent the public from suffering.

The Treasury reacted by saying the warning strike could have been prevented, and that “it is preferable that the doctors focus in advancing the negotiations or by accepting arbitration instead.”

After a decade in which it committed itself not to strike, the Israel Medical Association declared an official work dispute last month after announcing that seven months of wage negotiations with the Treasury had “reached a dead end.”

Eidelman said that the physicians in the public sector had shown “enormous responsibility” by abandoning the strike weapon for a decade – a stance made possible by the state’s agreement to put its previous wage dispute into arbitration.

The nearly 20,000 physicians’ main significant gains in the solution of that dispute, including the third and final stage of payment (a 24 percent hike), were completed only a few months ago, but last fall, the IMA revived negotiations for the next contract.

Eidelman said it was not only salary problems but major problems of imbalance in the health care system itself that made it “ill.”

The IMA head said that it was very hard for doctors to declare a wage dispute and that they did not want to harm patients to whom they were devoted.

But, Eidelman said, “we can’t just stand there when in the long term, the public system is liable to collapse.”

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