Medical residents protest rumored deal

IMA denies, says there is no agreement.

By
July 20, 2011 01:48
3 minute read.
Empty hospital corridor [illustrative]

Hospital beds 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Hundreds of medical residents walked out of hospital departments on Tuesday, in protest of what they claimed were the terms of an agreement to be signed by the Israel Medical Association to end the current labor dispute of nearly 110 days.

The IMA said this was “only rumors.”

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“No agreement has been reached yet,” an IMA spokesman said. “They are basing themselves on talk in the media.”

The National Labor Court in Jerusalem continued to meet all day to try to find a solution, which has seriously disrupted medical care in hospitals and interfered with normal functioning in community clinics.

Court President Nili Arad, who has worked intensively as a go-between in the last few weeks, had threatened to issue restraining orders against the doctors unless they reach an agreement. As the labor court is due to go on vacation on Wednesday, it appeared Arad was adamant about ending the dispute either with an agreement or court sanctions.

The IMA demands not only wage hikes and incentives for poorly-manned specialties and medical facilities in the periphery, but a reorganization of the healthcare system. It also opposes the Treasury’s demands for mandatory timeclocks to prove doctors’ presence in the hospitals, rather than at other jobs or other locations during work hours.

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“There is no draft agreement,” an IMA spokeswoman asserted. “There is no agreement with the Treasury, only rumors.”

Among the rumored parts of the “agreement,” according to media reports, are that the IMA agrees to cellphone applications that can determine the location of doctors in real time, instead of them formally punching a time-clock when arriving at and leaving work; 40 to 45 percent wage increases over eight or nine years; a reduced number of night and weekend shifts for residents; financial incentives for working in the periphery of the country; and special incentives to encourage residents to go into specialties that are short of doctors.

The Treasury has for months tried to separate residents from the senior doctors, whom are part of the IMA. It did not succeed publicly until Tuesday, when residents at Rambam, Meir, Tel Aviv Sourasky, Sheba and Kaplan Medical Centers and the Shalvata Mental Health Center walked out to protest against some of the parts of the supposed agreement, which the IMA maintained did not yet exist.

The IMA said that in the last 10 months it has conducted “intensive negotiations with the state to bring about the best possible agreement for public medicine in general, and the doctors specifically. As has occurred throughout, today, too, partial information has leaked out that does not give the whole picture. So as not to harm the negotiations, the IMA decided not to act according to these rumors, but rather to wait for the moment in which the agreement will be reached and then reveal the details.”

Sheba Medical Center Director Prof.

Zeev Rotstein said “if I were of the age and status of residents, I would go out with them to protest.”

At the same time, he urged them not to cause harm to the patients they are treating.

“I identify with these young physicians – these high quality people – completely.

They chose a profession that is fascinating and a challenge and makes it possible for them to give and achieve. But in our country, this profession has changed and doesn’t let them support themselves and their families honorably if they work in the public sector. It hurts that since the major labor dispute in the early ‘80s, nothing has changed. The status of young doctors has not improved in public medicine and they are not treated properly by the employers.”

Rotstein added that “all must understand that without an additional external source of funding for public medicine, we won’t be able to reach a situation in which young doctors will remain in the system and earn what they deserve.”

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