The Israel Medical Association, whose members held workers’ assemblies on Sunday
morning, thinks there will be no choice but to continue existing sanctions or
intensify them after Pessah due to the Treasury’s “refusal to negotiate
seriously” over major reform necessary in the health system.
“I see no
progress at all,” IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman told The Jerusalem Post
IMA blames Treasury ‘spin’ for strike focus on 'Sharap'
Pressure builds as 2nd day of doctors' warning strike looms
“We haven’t set exact schedules, but it looks as if a
strike is in the offing. However, we will do our best not to harm
On Monday and Tuesday, only urgent surgery to treat cancer
patients will be done and no elective operations will be performed.
services will continue in the hospitals.
On Wednesday, all public
hospitals will operate on reduced Shabbat schedules, with outpatient clinics
closed as well (except for urgent outpatient and inpatient cases approved by
Brazilai Hospital in Ashkelon will not participate in the strike due to the missiles fired from Gaza into the region.
Eleven years ago, the IMA held its last official
strike, which lasted for 127 days. After much disruption, an agreement was
reached for no doctors’ strikes for 10 years, in exchange for which the IMA
received agreement from the Treasury for arbitration.
But this stage took
eight years to complete; only late last year did the doctors receive the
benefits under the final phase of the 2000 agreement, by which time a new
contract had to be negotiated.
Eidelman, a veteran anesthesiologist – a
specialty that suffers from a severe shortage of physicians, like numerous other
key fields – said that generous wage hikes are far from enough. The whole public
healthcare system structure has to be rebuilt and balanced to prevent it from
collapsing in the face of too-few doctors, inadequate infrastructure and the
burgeoning of the private hospital system, which is much stronger than it was in
2000, he said.
Eidelman is aware of the fact that with 500 beds in fancy
hospitals and consultation offices around the country, private medicine could
benefit greatly from a strike by the IMA’s 20,000 members.
Eidelman is careful about making statements that every medical service would be
hit by a strike – which is impossible anyway because lifesaving operations and
treatments are not postponed by physicians, who never walk off
A strike would involve some health fund services but would
focus mostly on public hospitals, Eidelman said. He also wants physicians
working for the Health Ministry – whose Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman,
he charges, “is not on the doctors’ side” and has long crossed swords with IMA
leaders – to join the strike, so the ministry will also feel it.
ago, Litzman angered the IMA by noting in a Army Radio interview that “it is a
curiosity” that during the 2000 doctors’ strike, “deaths declined,” as if to
hint that having them out of hospitals would somehow not harm
Litzman has also made introducing private medical services in
the public hospitals – paid for by “Shaban” supplementary health insurance
policies that cover 75 percent of the population – his “solution for the health
system,” when the IMA says this is only a side issue that it hasn’t even brought
The IMA insists that the shortage of physicians, nurses and other
professionals that makes work in starved public hospital departments so
frustrating is the major issue, along with the need to boost health services in
the periphery, reduce the burden on underpaid interns and residents and hike
retired doctors’ pensions calculated without all the extra benefits in off
Private medical services in the public hospitals, said Eidelman,
could be possible in the periphery, where people cannot choose a senior
physician to operate because they aren’t there in adequate numbers; those who
pay supplementary health insurance in the outer regions in the country do not
But Ben-Gurion University health economist Prof. Gabi Bin- Nun –
who worked for a quarterof- a-century in the Health Ministry and always strongly
opposed private medical care in public hospitals – declared that Sharap/Shaban
there would be the end of the public healthcare system.
proposal, Bin-Nun insisted, would institute a twoclass system, discriminating
against those who could not afford to pay, especially the elderly who use the
most services. Supplementary health insurance policies, to which patients would
inevitably have to pay an additional 20 percent from their own pocket, would
skyrocket, further widening the gap. “If you cut the queue for payers, you
lengthen the queue for nonpayers,” Bin-Nun declared.
“There is no other
choice than for the government to increase public funding of the health system
and strengthen it. There is no free lunch.”
Meanwhile, students at Tel
Aviv University’s Sackler Medical Faculty demonstrated Sunday outside a
conference attended by Prime Minister and formal Health Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, demanding that he “save the public health system by reliving the
difficult conditions under which doctors work.”