IMA protest 311.
(photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
The Treasury and the Israel Medical Association have agreed to set up “working
teams” to focus intensively on the remaining issues in the 130-day-long labor
dispute that are preventing an agreement with the doctors from being signed,
both sides said Thursday.
IMA chairman, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, said he will
nevertheless continue his hunger strike that he launched Monday to get Prime
Minister, and formal health minister, Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene in the
intricate situation – even though President Shimon Peres called and asked him to
stop his hunger strike.
A chief announces hunger strike to protest labor dispute
“I will continue until an agreement is reached or
until I collapse,” the chairman said.
Eidelman, a senior
anesthesiologist, is due to conclude his march from IMA headquarters in Ramat
Gan to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem around midday on Friday and then
sit in a tent over Shabbat with some colleagues and continue his hunger
Peres was responding to numerous appeals by hospital directors
and other doctors to persuade the IMA chief to halt his one-man fast. He has
been drinking only water while marching towards Jerusalem. Eidelman was supposed
to reach the capital on Thursday morning, but the heat and the Israel Police’s
decision not to allow him and other demonstrators to walk all the way via
Highway 1 changed the schedule.
The president asked Eidelman to preserve
his health and return to the negotiating table to find a quick solution to the
dispute that would improve public medicine in the country.
country is watching you. You have proven your leadership and courage, and you
are bearing on your shoulders an important message of promoting and improving
public medicine,” Peres said. “As president, I appeal to you... You are precious
to us.” The IMA chief responded that he is in good condition and not yet
suffering from a health problem due to his self-imposed hunger strike. He
thanked Peres for his concern, and said his call strengthened him. In recent
days, Peres has been talking to senior ministers from whom he got the impression
that they are ready to bring about an end to the crisis and prevent suffering to
The IMA is organizing a massive demonstration titled
“Where did Netanyahu disappear” on Sunday at 11 a.m. in the Rose Garden near the
Knesset as a show of strength by doctors around the country, just as it did when
it launched the strike in early April.
On that day, public hospitals
around the country will observe a Shabbat schedule, which will reduce medical
services to a minimum. Outpatient clinics, diagnostic institutes and day
hospitals will be closed except for emergencies. Community services will
function normally in health fund clinics.
Meanwhile, head of the
opposition and Kadima head MK Tzipi Livni marched with Eidelman for a portion of
his march towards Jerusalem along with Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, a physician by
training who is head of the Knesset’s health lobby. Livni criticized Netanyahu
for refusing to show leadership by failing to intervene in the doctor’s
“The time has come for Netanyahu himself to get in under
Israel’s stretcher and intervene,” Livni said.
Adatto said public support
for the doctors’ cause was almost unanimous and that “almost every driver who
passes voices his support and strengthens us.”
Although Netanyahu had no
inclination to intervene in the doctors’ strike despite the IMA chief’s hunger
strike, the prime minister did meet with Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman
yesterday for a briefing to hear his plan to provide geriatric nursing coverage
to all Israelis.
Such coverage is not included in the basket of health
Litzman, according to a short Health Ministry press release,
said he would hold briefings next week about his plan. The deputy minister
issued a similar announcement at Tuesday’s Israel Medical Convention organized
by the Hadassah Medical Organization. But he provided no details in the press
release, though mentioning that Netanyahu praised Litzman for his
Directors of the three largest state hospitals – Zeev
Rotstein of Sheba, Gabi Barbash of Tel Aviv Sourasky and Rafael Beyar of Rambam
medical centers – decided to join Eidelman’s march towards Jerusalem for about
an hour until the rest stop at Kibbutz Tzuba on Thursday evening.
said they would call on the government to bring a halt to the strike and reach
“an historic settlement that would prevent the collapse of the public health
system.” They also called on Eidelman to stop his hunger strike immediately and
voiced their support for the doctors’ “justified demands” while suggesting ways
to find a way out of the dead end.