Israeli gov't must implement medical shifts reform, Health min. says

In a letter, Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz accused the Finance Ministry's budgeting department of not taking the medical shift reform into account.

 Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz,  December 30, 2021. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, December 30, 2021.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

The cabinet must be convened to discuss ways to bring forward the implementation of a reform to shorten the shifts of medical interns and residents, Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday.

In a nationwide protest last year, Israeli medical staff took to the streets to protest their working conditions in a demand to shorten their 26-hour shifts.

A plan to shortern shifts to 18 hours was agreed upon by the Health Ministry and the protesting medical staff, after over 2,500 medical residents, interns and students temporarily resigned.

The plan was supposed to take effect months ago in 10 hospitals in the periphery of the country and further implementation across Israel has been vague.

 Horowitz: Government must keep its promises

"It is not too late to fix this," Horowitz implored, "We must respond to the residents' plight as soon as possible."

Last week, over 500 Israeli medical interns and residents resigned due to the ministry delaying the reform. In a press conference held on Thursday morning, representatives of the Mirsham medical residents organization said that the government is "single-handedly leading Israel to the largest medical crisis in its history."

In his letter, Horowitz accused the Finance Ministry's budgeting department of not taking the reform into account, claiming the budget for the plan was not transferred over to his ministry.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz attends a plenum session for the 73rd establishment of the Knesset,  in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 17, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz attends a plenum session for the 73rd establishment of the Knesset, in the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, January 17, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

"Despite an explicit agreement between the health, finance and economy ministers, the budgeting department rejected the plan and failed to transfer the promised budget," the former Meretz head wrote.

"To prevent another delay of the reform's implementation, we must begin preparations immediately," Horowitz stated. "Increasing manpower at hospitals is the necessary first step.

"The government is expected to fulfill its commitments," the health minister added.

Horowitz attacks Liberman on plan for government budget cuts

In addition to the lack of movement with the medical reform, Horowitz has also expressed frustration at the Finance Ministry over a plan to cut the budgets of all government ministries in order to finance the agreement with the Teachers Union over improved salaries for Israeli educators.

In a tweet following the announcement of a deal on Wednesday, the health minister lamented Liberman's stated plan for broad budget cuts, saying that implementing such cuts would be "righting a wrong with another wrong."

"Budget cuts across the board means a heavy blow for our health and welfare services," Horowitz wrote. "It is absurd to propose such a cut when the Finance Ministry accumulated unprecedented surpluses in the tens of billions.

"Budget cuts across the board means a heavy blow for our health and welfare services"

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz

"What are they saving the money for?" Horowitz asked. "We will strongly oppose this plan."

Tal Spungin contributed to this report.