(photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
The doctors' council at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center went on an
hours-long strike Wednesday morning until 10 a.m., shutting down the hospital in
protest of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman's orders to immediately dismiss a number of specialist doctors at the hospital who tendered letters of resignation on Tuesday.
Doctors at Tel Aviv's
Sourasky Medical Center also threatened to shut down that hospital if
specialist doctors there were dismissed before their resignation letters
came into effect.
Doctors said they were limiting their protest to several hours in the morning because the
hospital management supported them in the showdown with the Health
Ministry. The hospital refused to act on Litzman's orders.
Health Ministry looks to get residents back to work
Residents appeal to High Court after talks fail
On Tuesday evening Litzman had said he
was considering accepting the resignations of fifteen specialist
doctors, putting them into effect immediately without waiting until the
end of the month when they were set to take effect. Speaking on Israel Radio Wednesday morning, a number of doctors explained that they gave 30 days notice for their resignations in hopes that the crisis would be resolved before the letters came into effect.
The specialist doctors quit Tuesday in
solidarity with the medical residents.
doctors believe that Litzman crossed a red line. In response to his
statements, doctors' committees in all hospitals across the country said
that if Litzman went ahead with his threats, they would disable the
entire health system.
Earlier in the day President Shimon Peres called on the government to give top
priority to the unrest caused by medical residents at large hospitals in
the center of the country. "It would be a shame to lose a single
physician, and of course, 100 of them," Peres said during a speech
at an event for 700 young volunteers held Tuesday in Kiryat Gat.
three-month-long dispute involved medical
residents at hospitals from Haifa southward. In the last two days, a
total of 287 residents refused to work, and at least 30 senior specialists
The hospital with the most
residents to refuse to show up in the wards was Rambam Medical Center in
Haifa (the figure of those staying away was 80 on Monday); Tel Aviv
Sourasky Medical Center (a total of 60); Meir Medical Center in Kfar
Saba (58); Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer (37); Bnei Zion in Haifa
(16); Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva (15); Wolfson
Medical Center in Holon; and four at the Rabin Medical Center of the
The residents, who carry the burden of the daily
routine in hospitals alongside the specialists and department heads, are
demanding higher compensation for their work, the cancellation of the
time-clock idea approved in August by the Israel Medical Association and
no regular shift work for specialists. The Treasury, which has the
power to reach an agreement, said that the August agreement cannot be
broken and that the voluntary organization set up by the residents does
not legally represent them.
The Health Ministry also received a
report on Tuesday that about 30 specialists presented their resignations
to Rambam, 30 at Sourasky and 20 at Schneider as backing for the
But the ministry said that despite the walkouts
and no-shows, work in all the hospitals are continuing "normally" and
that no departments or units have been allowed to close as a result.
However, at certain parts of the hospitals, patients have been advised
not to come in for elective care now. Some hospital patients have been
transferred to hospitals in the periphery, which is not affected because
doctors there - who benefit under the new agreement with the Treasury -
have not resigned.
The ministry reiterated that it regarded
"with great severity" the actions of the residents and specialists who
back them, because their action "puts an added burden on senior doctors"
who have somehow to take their places.
However, the ministry has asked the State Attorney’s Office to
postpone legal action that could have been implemented immediately,
apparently in the hope that the rebelling doctors will relent and
continue negotiating with the Treasury.
Also on Tuesday, some 30 residents and interns at Hillel Jaffe Medical
Center in Hadera suddenly abandoned their departments for two hours
without getting their superiors’ authorization. The doctors said they
did so to identify with the residents and specialists who resigned from
Hospital director Prof. Meir Oren, who supports "some" of the demands of
the rebels, invited some residents to his office to talk. The
demonstrators said they did not intend to harm patients and returned to