Netanyahu calls on medical residents to return to work

PM says he made offer that would significantly improve work conditions; Steinitz says residents are not respecting the rule of law.

October 11, 2011 11:48
3 minute read.
Physicians demonstate outside Knesset [file]

Doctors demo311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on medical residents to return to work Tuesday morning, saying they need to display responsibility.

"I offered the residents yesterday to add thousands of shekels to their monthly salaries in exchange for working in the the public sector once they become doctors," the prime minister said.

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"That is a generous offer that significantly improves work conditions and contributes to citizens who are hospitalized in the public health system," Netanyahu added.

Netanyahu – who is formally the health minister but has for many months left the medical system crisis to others – swung into action on Monday night as hundreds of medical residents made good on their promise to resign their posts.

In an effort to soften their resolve to quit permanently and find other work in Israel or abroad, Netanyahu told Finance Ministry negotiators to raise by thousands of shekels the monthly salaries of residents who agreed to devote all their work time to the public sector.

Netanyahu also asked the medical residents to hold back on resignations for another two weeks to find suitable solutions to the crisis. A statement put out by his office said he expected the medical residents to “demonstrate responsibility.”

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz slammed demands being made by medical residents on Tuesday, saying that by going against the collective agreement reached last month and resigning, the residents are not respecting the law.

"I have a lot of appreciation for doctors and residents," he said, "but nobody is above the law and nobody is above the norms of legal agreements," speaking with Army radio.

"To come one month after the agreement and say that we as an internal group are not satisfied with the agreement, that's anarchy," Steinitz added.


The finance minister also outlined starting wages of medical residents. Before the recently-signed agreement, he said, residents' starting wages were NIS 17,000 per month before taxes. In the new agreement, residents in the center of the country start at over NIS 21,000 and those in the periphery start at nearly NIS 26,000 before taxes.

The National Labor Court did not issue an injunction Monday overnight against the mass resignation of hundreds of medical residents throughout the country as the nearly nine-hour hearing ended with residents' representatives refusing to return to the negotiating table with the Finance Ministry.

The court is expected to reach a decision on Tuesday whether it will order residents to remain in the country's hospitals.

Hospital wards in the center of the country were largely empty, as patients who did not need urgent care were discharged and sent home, while the Health Ministry evacuated those who couldn’t get adequate treatment due to the shortage of manpower to medical centers in the periphery.

At the same time, the public tried to get medical assistance in outpatient community facilities, and senior specialists were forced to take blood samples and do other elementary tasks that they hadn’t performed for years, if not decades.

More than half of the residents who submitted their resignation letters over a month ago decided on Monday that enough was enough.

The struggle was a conflict in which neither side wanted to blink first. Netanyahu realized the seriousness of the situation when the first residents announced they would not show up. He called Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman for an emergency meeting.

The state’s lawyers initiated a National Labor Court session aimed at winning “tiedown orders” that would prevent resignations that would endanger public health.

Although doctors have the right to resign individually, a simultaneous abandonment of the wards clearly puts health and life at risk.

Joanna Paraszczuk and Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.

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