Deal to end doctors’ strike awaiting initials

Wording of final agreement that would end 158-day doctors' dispute being worked out; doctors and medical interns protest in TA, Haifa.

Doctors demo311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Doctors demo311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
About a month after the last “breakthrough” in the doctors’ dispute and 157 days after sanctions began, a final agreement seems to be in the making – but it’s not over until it’s over.
The Israel Medical Association and the Finance Ministry have been taking part in marathon mediation sessions orchestrated over the past nine days by Prof. Yitzhak Peterburg, a former Clalit Health Services manager and Cellcom senior executive and now of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Also a physician, he has brought the sides nearer to an agreement, which is meant to be in effect over the next eight years.


Sanctions to continue during mediation of doctors' dispute
Despite the growing harmony, the IMA said on Wednesday evening that “some of the data given out [informally] by the Treasury has been erroneous.”
To correct that, the IMA issued a PowerPoint presentation listing the “achievements reached” so far.
These include an additional NIS 2.5 billion to be spent on salaries, incentives and other benefits to the physicians; an additional 11 percent on incentive pay for working in the periphery and night and weekend shifts; grants; overtime; and social benefits.
According to a Globes report, the IMA has agreed that there will be no doctors’ strikes for the term of the agreement.
The medical group has finally agreed to a system – not necessarily by punching a time clock – to record where doctors in the public health system are when they are supposed to be working in their hospitals and other facilities. A cellphone system has been discussed.
The IMA said the doctors would, according to the agreement being formulated, receive a 20% increase immediately. In addition, 70% of the cost of the agreement would be allocated over the next three years, with a mechanism to preserve the value of increases against inflation.
Average doctors’ wages will increase by 49%, with the base pay to rise by 32% to which extra benefits would be added. Doctors who will work in fields crying for manpower and those working in the periphery will get “significant increases,” according to the IMA. Residents and other young physicians will also get major boosts in salaries.
Specialists in a field with shortages in central Israel will see a 33% increase in pay; specialists in the periphery will receive a 52% salary growth; and those in the periphery and in an understaffed field will have a 54% pay increase, says Globes. Doctors agreeing to move to towns in the periphery will receive grants of up to NIS 500,000, if they agree to stay for 4 to 6 years.
In addition, the government has already committed itself to add 1,000 doctor slots to the system.
Young physicians will work fewer shifts per month – six rather than about 14 – and pay will be calculated according to a five-day rather than the existing sixday week, with overtime.
Senior physicians will work shifts in the hospitals until 11 p.m. a few times a month rather than being on-call from home.
Even though the IMA secretariat has given its consent to the agreement being finalized, it has been careful not to issue a final announcement until it feels certain that younger “rebels” who prevented the signing weeks ago will come around.
IMA leaders know in a few weeks, more than 1,000 letters of resignation by medical residents and even some senior doctors will come into effect, creating chaos in the system if they leave their places of work.
Some doctors, particularly those in the center of the country who will receive smaller pay hikes, have expressed anger at the deal, some even rallying outside the meeting of the IMA and Finance Ministry, according to a Globes news story.
One doctor, who works at the Ichilov Hospital in the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, said: “You sold out.”