Rivlin calls on Netanyahu to intervene in doctors' dispute

Medical system "is in the middle of a storm," says Knesset speaker.

By JPOST.COM STAFF,
July 26, 2011 15:30
2 minute read.
doctors strike (IMA)

national doctors strike (IMA) gallery_3. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday called on Prime Minister, and formal health minister, Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene in the 129-day-old doctors’ dispute.

“While it is natural for the prime minister to give his ministers freedom of action, the time has come for him to intervene,” Rivlin, a fellow Likud MK, said at the morning’s opening of the Israel Medical Conference organized by the Hadassah Medical Organization.

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On Monday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas made the same request to Netanyahu, who did not commit himself.

Rivlin sent his greetings to Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman, who is marching from Ramat Gan to Jerusalem. The doctor plans to arrive in the capital on Thursday morning, to conduct a hunger strike opposite the Prime Minister’s Office until Netanyahu intervenes.

Eidelman has said Netanyahu has the power to end the labor dispute if he finds money to add 1,000 manpower slots for doctors, reduce the number of night and weekend shifts worked by medical residents to six monthly, and finds ways to increase the number of doctors working in specialties with meager medical manpower.

After being told of a survey showing that 85 percent of the public supports the doctors, Rivlin said that as Knesset speaker, he “cannot reveal his views.” But in his short message, it became quite clear that he thought Netanyahu should become involved in the bitter dispute over wages, conditions of senior and junior physicians, inequity of healthcare in the periphery, inadequate staff in certain specialties, and doctors’ use of time clocks in hospitals.

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The medical system “is in the middle of a storm, not just another labor dispute; it is nothing less than a struggle for the public medical system,” Rivlin declared.

“It joins other struggles that demand the state and society to think deeply about them.

This government has found itself with responsibility to bring solutions to a crisis that has gotten worse for years, during the tenure of various governments.”

The Knesset speaker said that while in recent years the public sector has shrunken and the private sector has been depicted as more important for the promotion of economic growth, both are needed, and a strong health system is necessary for the public good.

Later on Tuesday, meetings between IMA leaders and the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Eyal Gabbai, concluded without making any progress.

Finance Ministry wage director Ilan Levin said an accord had nearly been reached with the doctors, but the IMA added more demands at the last minute and more-extreme young medical residents retracted concessions they had previously made.

More than 100 residents arrived at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer to demonstratively sign letters of resignation, but they have not yet been tendered to employers.

Sanctions by hospital doctors will continue through Thursday.

Also on Tuesday, senior doctors and medical residents at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon held an hour-long march of solidarity with the IMA in the streets of the city.

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