PM summons Steinitz, Litzman for urgent talks on residents

State seeks injunction against medical residents' mass resignations; Netanyahu asks for two-week delay; hundreds of residents don't show up for work at hospitals around country to protest salaries.

October 10, 2011 15:12
3 minute read.
Physicians demonstate outside Knesset [file]

Doctors demo311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu summoned Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman Monday afternoon for an emergency meeting regarding the mass resignation of medical residents earlier in the day. Litzman said they hoped to reach a solution is a short period of time, Army Radio reported.

The state also sought an injunction from the National Labor Court Monday afternoon that would order medical residents to return to work. Several hundred medical residents resigned and did not show up for work Monday morning as part of a labor dispute in the health system.

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Following the mass resignation, Steinitz called on the residents to return to work. "We all need to respect the law and the rule of law," Steinitz said in a statement, urging the medical residents to "hold discussions with us. We are looking for creative ways to improve certain things within the already-written agreement with doctors, including additional money."

The government was also considering ordering a transfer of more senior doctors to departments where the residents' absence has created backups.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein already signed off on such a process, which still needs to be authorized by the director-general of the Health Ministry, Army Radio reported.

In announcing the resignation at a press conference Monday morning, residents' representative Dr. Gabi Heran called on the labor courts not to order them back to work.

"We respect the court," Heran said, "far more than Finance Ministry wages supervisor Ilan Levin. Today we will ask the court not to issue an injunction or confinement."

"It is not the doctors that led us to this depressing situation," he added. "It is the state that needs to take responsibility for its actions."


Thus far, the National Labor Court has declined to let residents resign over what they claim are unfair conditions agreed upon in the Israel Medical Association’s nine-year labor agreement with the employers, which was signed at the end of August.

Immediately following the resignation, Netanyahu said he was working to solve the medical crisis and asked medical residents to put off their resignations from public hospitals by an additional two weeks.

"[The] prime minister asked the residents for a two week delay and he expects them to show responsibility," a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

At the resident's press conference, Dr. Oren Feldman asserted that only the prime minister's involvement could solve the crisis. "I turn to you, Mr. Netanyahu. Please intervene."

Hundreds of residents did not show up for their morning shifts: 104 at Ichilov Hospital at Sourasky Medical Center, 71 at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, 77 at Rambam Medical Center and 18 at Bnei Zion Hospital.

The decision to resign was met by some with criticism. Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen of Shas told Army Radio, "The residents' resignation will cost human lives." Cohen accused hospital administrators of cynically trying to expand their businesses toward private insurance at the expense of patients.

After walking out on the talks with the Finance Ministry, the medical residents' representatives expressed frustration with the Treasury's "failure to understand the reality of the situation" and called on Netanyahu to intervene.

Without a compromise, all the sides have much to lose, as the physicians would not be given their jobs back once they carried out their threats to leave, and the Health Ministry desperately looked for other doctors to fill their places.

To prevent outright chaos in the event that the residents resign from their posts in the wards and emergency rooms, the Health Ministry opened a situation room in its Rehov Rivka office that would coordinate and make arrangements for specialists to fill the holes; ministry officials know that the arrangements would be only temporary.

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich and Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.

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