Tel Aviv DA files petition to prevent doctors' resignations

IMA: State petition to prevent doctors' resignations is aggressive attempt to prevent physicians from making professional decisions.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
October 2, 2011 21:22
4 minute read.
Doctors protest outside the Knesset [file]

doctors protest 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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The Tel Aviv District Attorney and the office's labor dispute department on Sunday night filed  with the National Labor Court a request to prevent the actual resignation of the doctors. The request was filed by lawyers Orit Podmasky and Doron Yefet.

The residents reiterated their call on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is also formally the healthy minister, to find a solution to the dispute.

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The Israel Medical Association (IMA) said that the state petition to prevent the doctors' resignations was an aggressive attempt to prevent physicians from making their own professional decisions, Army Radio reported.

The Health Ministry is preparing as best as it can for the worst if 702 medical residents and 32 specialists indeed carry out their threats and do not appear at their hospital jobs during the coming days starting Tuesday. But officials intimated that that letters of resignation over dissatisfaction with the August labor contract could be retracted in time, having served primarily as a pressure tactic to improve conditions for young doctors without really abandoning ship.

The hospitals where they work are Tel Aviv Sourasky (142 resignation letters), Rambam Medical Center in Haifa (102), Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer (100), Meir in Kfar Saba (100), Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva (71), Bnei Zion in Haifa (41), Assaf Harofeh in Tzrifin (33), Wolfson in Holon (31), Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva (30), Hadassah University Medical Centers in Jerusalem (24), Kaplan in Rehovot (11), Emek Medical Center in Afula (7), Carmel Medical Center in Haifa (4), Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba (1), Shalvata Mental Health Center in Beer Ya’acov (5).

Most of the residents work for government hospitals in the center of the country and will benefit less from the nine-year contract negotiated in August by the Israel Medical Association -- and not from the periphery, where accessibility to the best health care is much reduced. Only a minority of doctors come from Clalit Health Services’ or voluntary institutions. Sourasky Medical Center, which is always voted by residents’ "the country’s most desirable medical center" for doing one’s study of a medical specialty, would be hardest hit if the residents don’t show up.



A veteran hospital source told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that senior hospital administrators who came out in favor of the resignations had hoped the labor agreement would lead to the institution of Sharap (private medical services) in public hospitals but were disappointed.

Residents were tight-lipped about what will really happen starting Tuesday.

Some suggested that doctors who received highly subsidized medical educations should be required by law to pay the government back if they leave the country to practice medicine abroad after only a short service in Israel, as leaving was taking advantage of the country’s generosity; in other countries, private medical schools charge large sums for such an education.

Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that "the majority of resignations were made in groups; entire departments will go home together; in some departments almost 50 percent have quit," implying that it was an organized campaign rather a matter of individual consciences and plans. Gamzu added that if all -- or most -- of the 734 doctors made good on their threats, it would be very difficult to continue the hospital departments’ functioning, as round-the-clock care of patients depends largely on the young residents. The resignation letters, 80% of them due to come into effect between October 4 and 8, followed an injection by the National Labor Court that ruled a mass resignation by 1,000 doctors was illegal.

Gamzu said that if hundreds of medical residents and dozens of specialists actually resign, the most affected departments will be internal medicine (129 resignations), pediatrics (70), orthopedics (67), obstetrics/gynecology (57) and general surgery (41).

In the eventuality that the signers of the letters are not bluffing to increase pressure on the government and the IMA to change the labor agreement, outpatient clinics will minimize their services; the number of nurses and midwives in obstetrics departments will be increased; and non-emergency operations will be reduced to a minimum. Vacations by department heads and other senior doctors will be cancelled in the eventuality of resignations. Departments that have a serious shortage of manpower will be assisted by duty doctors in the community, and veteran doctors -- even pensioners -- will do work that residents usually do. But these arrangements cannot go on for more than a few weeks.

The ministry will issue a press bulletin daily if the doctors do not show up at work. The ministry will set up a situation room to inform patients and relatives of the latest developments, and a ministry team will visit affected hospitals and try to alleviate problems that arise.

MK Uri Ariel said that resignations endanger the lives and health of Israelis and that they must not be carried out. "Both sides must climb down from the tree and talk together within a limited period. Apparently there is no one to blame for this difficult situation, but instead of solving the problem, the two sides are digging in and risking lives of patients. I beg Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman to find a solution that will prevent the resignations -- before the first victim pays for it with his life."

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