All Clalit Health Services hospitals will be on strike Monday and function on an emergency basis as the union protests against cuts in services at Eilat's Josephthal Hospital due to the Treasury's failure to transfer NIS 17 million to keep the hospital going.
The Eilat hospital, the only one in the Arava, has been run on an emergency schedule since Wednesday when staffers went out on strike to protest Clalit's order to discontinue all outpatient services due to lack of money.
As a result of the decree, Eilat residents and tourists will have to travel 300 kilometers northward for ambulatory treatment.
The union recommended that people not travel to Eilat, which will lack hospital services and has no alternative to the Clalit-owned institution.
It serves a local population of 57,000 residents plus two million tourists who visit the southernmost city every year.
Histadrut chairman MK Amir Peretz said the labor federation would provide backing to the union's actions in order to save Josephthal.
"The government must subsidize the hospital," he said, "as the health fund, which owns it, cannot be expected to carry the whole burden of medical services in the area.
The Clalit spokeswoman said that in principle, it opposed all strikes, but in this case it had sympathy for the workers.
The government allocated NIS 17 million a year for Josephthal and set no conditions for the allocation, but so far it has not transferred one agora.
The Treasury spokesman had a different story, saying that the NIS 17 million allocation was conditional on the Finance and Health Ministries reaching agreement on a stability program for the Eilat hospital for the years 2005 to 2007, but that so far agreement had not been reached so the money had not be transferred to Clalit.
A mass demonstration outside the hospital is planned for Monday, and schools and municipal offices will be closed to make attendance possible for pupils and employees.