Treasury asks Labor Court for IMA restraining orders

Nurses’ union has members abandon two departments at Sheba Medical Center as dispute escalates.

By JUDY SIEGEL ITZKOVICH
June 29, 2011 05:19
2 minute read.
Hospital bed occupancy at 120%

Hospital Bed 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The state applied Tuesday to the National Labor Court in Jerusalem for restraining orders against the Israel Medical Association – at the request of the Finance Ministry – demanding that the organization immediately stop the doctors’ sanctions to prevent “the intensification of the needless harm to the public that is planned on July 1.”

The IMA said a few weeks ago that on July 1, doctors will “work to the book,” taking care of fewer patients and observing other limitations to “ensure patient safety.”

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The Treasury quickly reacted by saying it would request restraining orders against the IMA before then.

However, the Treasury’s plans were foiled, at least temporarily, when the Tel Aviv District Court decided a week ago not to accept the Finance Ministry’s request, saying the doctors’ sanctions are “legitimate” and urging the two sides to go back to negotiations. With July 1 very close, the Treasury has gone to a higher labor court to issue restraining orders.

The court said it would hear the case on Thursday.

The doctors’ sanctions have been carried out intermittently, mostly in the hospitals, since early April.

Although the Treasury had carried out negotiations almost alone as the nominal health minister, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, had stood aside, the Health Ministry recently decided to get more involved. Health Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu has sat with the doctors and Finance Ministry officials to try to reach a solution.

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The Treasury spokesman said that the state had suggested various alternative solutions to the IMA, such as via arbitration and negotiation, but that the IMA has refused them.

The state on Tuesday asked the National Labor Court “for assistance in finding a solution to the dispute to prevent further harm to the public.”

The IMA reacted by saying, “We expect the Treasury to invest efforts in negotiating to find a solution that will bring the labor dispute to an end. The Treasury must understand that it will be accomplished with negotiations and not by the labor court.”

Meanwhile, the dispute with the Israel Nurses Association intensified on Tuesday, as nurses at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer carried out the association’s threats and abandoned two internal medicine departments after management continued to send patients to the departments.

The union, headed by Ilana Cohen, previously reduced the number of internal medicine beds by two beds per department. There are usually several such departments in each hospital.

This week, the union said nurses would further reduce the number of beds by seven per department, allowing the number of elderly and chronically ill patients to reach a maximum of 100 percent capacity.

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