Labor Court freezes doctors' resignations for one day

Residents at Rambam vote not to accept PM's request to wait a few days to examine suggestions raised during previous night's meeting.

By JOANNA PARASZCZCUK
October 6, 2011 00:39
2 minute read.
Doctors protest in Haifa [File]

doctor strike haifa_311. (photo credit: Piotr Fliter/Ramban Medical Center)

 
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In a frustrating game of ping-pong, over 700 medical residents were prevented at least until Thursday afternoon from resigning from their hospital posts and told to continue to negotiate.

The young doctors had said they were tired of talks after two hours on Tuesday night and turned down Prime Minister (and formally Health Minister) Binyamin Netanyahu, who asked for a two-week respite to find a solution to the labor dispute.

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Medical residents agree to postpone resignation by 48 hours

Poised to hand over their stethoscopes, cellphones and other equipment and say farewell to their patients on Thursday morning, they were prevented from doing so by National Labor Court President Nili Arad, who on Wednesday afternoon suspended the doctors’ resignation letters. The court was responding to an urgent request filed by the state for an emergency hearing.

In the request, filed by attorneys Doron Yefet and Orit Podemsky of the State Attorney’s Office, the state accused residents of “running to carry out their threat of resignation” despite Monday’s National Labor Court ruling to freeze the resignations while the state and residents continued their negotiations.

According to the state, 240 residents from the Ichilov, Sheba, Rambam and Bnei Zion hospitals who submitted resignation letters from September 4 to 6 had decided they would not show up for work on Thursday.

The state accused residents of taking part in “mass resignations as part of their struggle to improve working conditions and salaries.”

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The state argued that it would cause chaos and closed departments in the hospitals if all abandoned their posts at once, and that if it occurred, it would have to be gradual.

According to the state, a mass resignation constituted an “illegal and forbidden strike” as defined in the Labor Court’s ruling in September.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Arad told the vying sides to submit a written update of their progress in negotiations. The state was further ordered to submit reports from managers of those hospitals named as affected by Thursday’s proposed resignations and asked that those hospital managers also attend Thursday’s hearing.

Medical residents from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (which included Ichilov Hospital), Rambam Medical Center and Sheba Medical Center, which has received support from senior medical administrators who advocate the giving of Sharap (private medical services) not currently allowed there, were among the strongest advocates of the resignations.

Just in case, the Health Ministry published phone numbers of hospitals around the country where patients and their families could receive information on what medical services would still be available.

The Finance Ministry released a list of offers it had made to the medical residents that seemed generous enough to make the young physicians look stubborn and unwilling to reach a compromise. But despite the offers, the Treasury declared that the labor agreement it signed with the Israel Medical Association in late August would remain in force.

According to a survey of doctors by the Pharma Quest company, there was “massive support” for the resigning residents.

Fully 78 percent of a sample of 750 veteran physicians said they supported the young doctors’ demands for higher pay and better conditions. They agreed that the residents are “a new generation unwilling to put up with what they’ve been fed.”

The poll showed criticism of Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman, who signed the accord with the Treasury.

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