PM praises deal between Treasury, medical residents

Steinitz says agreement is excellent, will advance historic reform; Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center residents vote against agreement, but promise to respect majority decision; residents back out of press conference.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
December 8, 2011 08:51
3 minute read.
Medical staff at a hospital

hospital doctors health 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the agreement reached overnight between medical residents and the Finance Ministry, which brought to an end months of fraught labor negotiations.

"Israeli citizens benefit from the agreement and the public medical system is stronger," Netanyahu said.


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The last kinks in the agreement between the government and disgruntled hospital residents were worked out by legal advisers on Wednesday night. The new agreement will bring an end to the unrest that has plagued the health system for months.

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Residents had scheduled a press conference to present details of the deal for Thursday morning but shortly before its start, cancelled their participation in it.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz also lauded the deal as an excellent agreement that would advance a historic reform in the public health system.

During an interview with Israel Radio on Thursday morning, Steinitz added that the doctors had gained significantly in their salaries. He stressed, however, that the agreement signed between the Treasury and the IMA had not been breached by any means.   

A total of 296 residents at hospitals in the center of the country and in Haifa agreed to the deal mediated by former Supreme Court justice Prof. Yitzhak Zamir and University of Haifa legal expert Prof. Mordehai Mironi, but 59 residents at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center – which was home to some of the strongest opposition to the Israel Medical Association – voted against it.

The mediators spent two weeks trying to bring the sides to an agreement. Although they voted against the proposal, the Tel Aviv doctors realized that they were in the minority.

They promised to function normally in their departments and not take any more action in opposition to the accord.

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The mediation team declined to publicize officially all the details of the agreement until it was signed. But according to unofficial reports, it includes grants of NIS 60,000 per resident until completion of their residency; a day off per week and extra pay for doctors who work Friday shifts; fines against hospitals that require residents to carry out more than six monthly weekend or late-night shifts; an additional bonus for doctors who work beyond 20 extra monthly hours in shifts; and the establishment in 2015 of a follow-up committee to determine whether the residents’ agreement has been carried out as planned or if changes need to be made.

The mediated agreement between the residents and the Treasury does not break the nine-year labor agreement signed at the end of August by the IMA following sanctions that began in April, but it uses its flexibility to provide extra pay and grants to residents, a guaranteed weekly day off and other benefits.

Residents at hospitals in the periphery – who had the most to gain from August’s accord because of incentive grants for those who move to outlying areas to practice medicine – did not revolt.

Although the mediated agreement will bring definite improvements to the residents, the young doctors studying for specialties said that no one was happy or very satisfied, but they realized that they had reached a dead end in the courts because they were prevented from resigning en masse from their positions.

In the current constellation of power, the Treasury is unwilling to make major changes in the agreement signed by the IMA in August, for fear that such a precedent would encourage any rebel group in unions to demand renegotiation of a signed contract.

“It was the best we could get,” said residents, who voiced their anger at the IMA leadership and even called for their resignation.

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