Pressure builds as 2nd day of doctors' warning strike looms

Public stays away from outpatient clinics, tension grows in hospital wards

By JUDY SIEGEL
April 6, 2011 06:45
3 minute read.
Ziv hospital situation room

Ziv hosptial situation room_311. (photo credit: Ziv Hospital)

 
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A three-and-a-half-hour meeting between Israel Medical Association officials and the Treasury ended Tuesday with no positive results but a long list of “bad feelings” reported by the doctors. They said the atmosphere was “very negative,” but were willing to have more talks if another session were scheduled for Wednesday – the second and, for now, final day of the warning strike.

Treasury wage chief Ilan Levin was quoted as suggesting to the doctors again during the meeting that they agree to arbitration to settle the dispute instead of a full-blown strike. He called the warning strike “unnecessary.”

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Levin reiterated that the Treasury insisted that all doctors be required to use time clocks to ensure they were in departments when they were supposed to be working.

Many people who had planned to visit outpatient clinics in the hospitals, where Shabbat schedules were observed, remained at home, thus reducing pressure on the departments. As far fewer doctors were on hand at inpatient departments, there was more crowding and overwork for those young physicians left in charge, especially in internal medicine and emergency medicine departments. The IMA approved the arrival of interns to help out where necessary, to prevent danger and suffering for patients on the first day, the doctors said.

However, when the warning strike continues on Wednesday, pressures are likely to build up, as hospitalized patients were not discharged on Tuesday.

Safed’s Ziv Hospital in the periphery reported that its emergency room treated twice as many patients as usual, partially due to Clalit Health Services and Kupat Holim Leumit doctors – who constitute the majority of health fund physicians in the area – not receiving patients in the community.

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The IMA’s exceptions committees received about 130 requests that doctors take cases – including those needing urgent surgery – not included among the types of patients who are due to be cared for, and about 40 were found to be justified, the IMA said.

One of those approved at Ziv was a young man who needed an operation on his pelvis due to a fracture. Until it was approved, he was fasting in expectation of being approved for the the surgery and nervous that it might not be authorized.

Inpatients and those outpatients who came almost unanimously and vocally expressed their support for the doctors, who are fighting not only for higher wages – especially the younger ones who work long hours day and night – but also for reform in the health system that would increase job slots and incentives for specialties with too-few physicians and for those working in the periphery.

Even though patients were worried that they would not get treatment they needed or would suffer delays, they said the “doctors’ struggle is our struggle” and “we wish you luck.”

On Thursday, the IMA leaders, headed by its chairman, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, will meet to decide what further action to take in the coming days and weeks.

Meanwhile, the Israel Association of Medical Students issued a statement in support of the doctors, saying they met physicians on a daily basis during their clinical studies in hospitals and knew how hard they worked in impossible conditions.

“Many of them teach us as well as treating patients and often get no compensation for this,” they said.

“We watch with much concern the sad state of the health system, from the shortage of doctors in the periphery and basic specialties everywhere, to the illogical shift work and the shameful pay they receive,” they went on. “We support the doctors’ struggle and are ready to take an active part in it, because we know their fight is our fight, and in the end it will benefit the public at large.”

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