Hospitals on strike after late-night talks fails

Overnight negotiations end without agreement over Treasury's latest proposal; hospitals, Clalit clinics to strike, except emergency cases.

Hospital Beds 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hospital Beds 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Talks that lasted until early Monday morning ended without any progress, setting the stage for a planned strike in hospitals and Clalit clinics Monday.
Negotiations between the Israel Medical Association, the Treasury and the Health Ministry were expected to resume Monday night.
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The High Court of Justice decided on Sunday not to interfere at this stage in the issue of hospital crowding raised by the Israel Medical Association, which demanded that 100 more intensive care beds and 500 internal medicine beds around the country be added immediately.
But Justice Edna Arbel said that the hospital situation was “very worrisome” and that if more delays occur, the court is likely to find itself “less reserved” and ready to intervene.
Arbel told the IMA – whose members have been applying sanctions since early April over low wages, inequity in medical care in the periphery, and excessive hours for medical residents – that the court has noted many unimplemented plans for resolving the problems, which have only become worse.
Also on Sunday, the Nurses Association in the Histadrut labor federation instructed its members to cut by two the number of beds in each hospital’s internal medicine department where seriously ill patients are attached to ventilators and thus require much more supervision and treatment.
The association charges that the Finance and Health ministries have reneged on its agreement in January – at the height of the flu season, to add 190 nursing slots in hospital intensive care units. The Health Ministry did not comment on the situation, while the Treasury did not give a clear answer.
Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman said he supports the nurses in their struggle and that their demands to have the Treasury’s agreement implemented are justified.
Prof. Avinoam Reches, chairman of the IMA’s ethics committee, said in a lecture before the Commercial and Industrial Club in Tel Aviv late last week that “the doctors’ strike is an ethical issue in which the doctors are on the right side. If the health fund physicians were to devote one more minute to each clinic patient, they would have to add 250 more manpower slots of family physicians.”
Reches, a veteran neurologist at Hadassah University Medical Center, said that a general Google search shows 2.3 billion websites relate to medicine and a quarter of internet users who educate themselves on healthcare have changed medical treatment recommended by their doctors which weakens doctors’ status and influence. The patient often reaches conclusions on his medical problem and hides some of his medical history, Reches said. Ratings of doctors that are posted by patients on various websites and are based on hearsay or limited personal experience can also hurt physicians; as a result, patients can get reckless treatment, he said.
Ya’acov Litzman had a brief Sunday teleconference with reporters in which he tried to defend his plan to change shifts for hospital residents, but the IMA – and the Treasury – continue to voice their opposition.
Litzman wants to reduce the length of night and weekend shifts from 24 to 26 hours down to 20 hours, instead of reducing the number of shifts per month.
Opponents claim that Litzman’s plan would severely harm training of residents for medical specialties, as they would be working in hospitals when senior doctors are not present. The IMA said that the Health Ministry’s turnaround in policy “tricked” them and made their sanctions this week more severe as a result.
On Monday, all hospitals and community health fund clinics owned by Clalit Health Services will strike, except for urgent cases. On Tuesday, all elective surgery will be cancelled and only emergency and oncological surgery will take place.
On Wednesday, only urgent and oncological operations will be held in hospitals. In addition, hospital outpatient clinics, diagnostic clinics, and day hospitals in general, psychiatric and geriatric hospitals will shut down.
The Knesset State Control Committee will meet to discuss crowding in internal medicine departments on Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Thursday will see the same schedule of sanctions as will be held on Wednesday.