Israeli hospitals: Hundreds of med students march in support of resident resignations

On Sunday, the medical students demonstrated in Tel Aviv while the hospitals are expected to face the week with fewer staff members as the resignations come into effect.

 MED STUDENTS demonstrate in Tel Aviv in support of doctors, interns and residents who resigned in protest of 26-hour-shifts and heavy workload in hospitals, October 17, 2021 (photo credit: MIRSHAM)
MED STUDENTS demonstrate in Tel Aviv in support of doctors, interns and residents who resigned in protest of 26-hour-shifts and heavy workload in hospitals, October 17, 2021
(photo credit: MIRSHAM)

Medical students from all Israeli faculties marched in central Tel Aviv on Sunday afternoon, in support of hundreds of interns and residents who resigned their positions as part of the battle to shorten the length of hospital shifts.

Over 300 students, from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Ariel University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem also signed the petition claiming they would resign – and as a result, decided to strike on Sunday in support.

"The purpose of the demonstration was to show the residents that they're not alone, that we appreciate the sacrifice they're making so that we can work in more humane conditions and be better doctors when the time comes," said Adi Moran, a fifth-year med student who attended the protest.

"The students will remain an active part so long as shifts aren't reduced all across the country, in all medical fields. We expect to see a funded project and not just empty statements," added Maayan Yedvab, a fellow student from the Hebrew University. "This is a clear stand saying that our generation refuses to work in these conditions. If today there are 500 letters of resignation, we'll have thousands."

The protesters convened in Tel Aviv at noon, wearing medical scrubs and chanting slogans against the Health Ministry, as they marched through the central Kaplan Road and finally sat down in the Azrieli interchange, blocking traffic.

MED STUDENTS demonstrate in Tel Aviv in support of doctors, interns and residents who resigned in protest of 26-hour-shifts and heavy workload in hospitals, October 17, 2021 (MIRSHAM)

DISCUSSIONS were held late Saturday night in an effort to quash the threat of the large-scale resignation, which came into effect Sunday morning.

As the residents, most of whom are affiliated with the Mirsham union for medical residents, handed in their resignation letters last week, the Israeli Medical Association also attempted to prevent the drastic measure in talks with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, according to a report on Ynet. Mirsham disbanded from the IMA, which has represented doctors in Israel since 1912, in order to become a voice for the young medical residents who often get overlooked in agreements between the Health and Finance ministries.

The residents have been demonstrating the fact that they work 26-hour shifts, often without any break to rest or even eat or go to the bathroom for several hours, due to the immense overload in hospitals.

“We are striking to identify with the just and right battle of the residents,” concluded Yedvab. “I and others like me believe this has to do with our studies just as much as tests or assignments. This is our future. Every citizen should care about this.”

MIRSHAM demonstration against 26 hour resident doctor shifts (credit: MIRSHAM)MIRSHAM demonstration against 26 hour resident doctor shifts (credit: MIRSHAM)

Several options are currently being investigated to reach an agreement with the medical community, Ynet reported, including the possibility of shortening the time frame of the outline, which currently spans four years, or adding more hospitals to the first phase that is set to begin in April of 2022, instead of the 10 hospitals currently included as a trial run. 

On Sunday, the medical students plan to demonstrate in Tel Aviv while the hospitals are expected to face a week with fewer staff members as the resignations come into effect.

The writer is a breaking news editor for The Jerusalem Post who studies medicine at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.