Lapid and Barbivai establish ‘voluntary’ shorter shifts for medical residents

Lapid told the Finance Ministry to transfer NIS 66 million to those hospitals, not only those in the periphery, that are willing to shorten shifts from an exhausting 26 hours to 18. 

 Hospital reception area (photo credit: FLICKR)
Hospital reception area
(photo credit: FLICKR)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid has brought at least a temporary respite to the long-standing dispute with hospital residents who have demanded shorter shifts. 

The Israel Medical Association, which represents mostly veteran physicians, opposes the agreement.

Lapid told the Finance Ministry to transfer NIS 66 million to those hospitals that are willing to shorten shifts from 26 hours to 18.

Economy Minister Orna Barbivay had been saying on behalf of the government that the matter could be resolved only by the next Knesset following the election in November. However, as a member of Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, she went along with him, and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) agreed.

“Prime Minister Lapid and Minister of Economy Barbivai have issued a death sentence to public medicine in the periphery. Instead of strengthening the hospital residents, they strengthen the strong and deal a fatal blow to the already weak.”

Prof. Zion Hagay, the chairman of the Israel Medical Association

Following repeated threats from hundreds of hospital residents around the country to resign, the government had offered a plan to gradually shorten shifts as a pilot program in 10 hospitals in the country’s geographic and socioeconomic periphery.

 Medical Care” geriatric hospital  (credit: Nili Tzur) Medical Care” geriatric hospital (credit: Nili Tzur)

Clalit Health Services, the country’s largest health fund that owns and operates its own chain of public hospitals, opposed the plan, saying they lacked young doctors to work the shifts.

But after Lapid finally ordered the allocation of the money, Mirsham – which represents young medical school graduates working in hospitals – agreed to the deal. Barbivay said that any Israeli public hospital willing to go along would receive extra funds to implement it, and that this applied to hospitals in all areas of the country.

Israel Medical Association statements

Prof. Zion Hagay, chairman of the Israel Medical Association, criticized the move on Tuesday, saying “Prime Minister Lapid and Minister of Economy Barbivay have issued a death sentence to public medicine in the periphery. Instead of strengthening the hospital residents, they strengthen the strong and deal a fatal blow to the already weak.”

He argued that the handful of departments in the center of the country that will be able to afford to shorten shifts before September 2023 and without a dedicated government budget “will only widen the gaps and cause the young doctors not to reach the periphery.”

Today, explained Hagay, hospitals in the periphery are already experiencing great difficulty in recruiting new doctors, and this difficulty will only get worse following the “voluntary model” proposed by Lapid and Barbivay. “Against the background of the existing shortage of doctors, and without giving priority to the periphery, the voluntary permit that will serve the same handful of departments in the hospitals in the center is a bad and irresponsible outline, which is entirely mixed with short-term political reasons,” said the IMA chairman.