470 residents stay away from work, but most hospitals cope

Medical specialists work long hours, patients transferred to hospitals in the periphery and the public try to avoid hospitalization.

Doctors demo311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Doctors demo311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Although the number of hospital residents who stayed away from their jobs rose from 380 on Monday to 470 on Tuesday, the medical centers in the center of the country – except for Rambam in Haifa – are managing to cope with the patients.
This was made possible by long hours of work by medical specialists, the transfer of patients to hospitals in the periphery (where there have been no walk-offs) and the public trying to avoid hospitalization.
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The affected hospitals were Tel Aviv Sourasky, Rambam, Assaf Harofeh (Tzrifin), Sheba (Tel Hashomer), Wolfson (Holon), Meir (Kfar Saba), Bnei Zion (Haifa), and Rabin and Schneider (Petah Tikva).
Dr. Chezy Levy, the head of the Health Ministry’s medical branch, instructed Magen David Adom ambulance drivers to send patients in the Haifa area to Nazareth and Nahariya hospitals. The ministry’s website at www.health.gov.il has phone numbers for the public to contact at each of the hospitals hit by the walkout.
Meanwhile, the state was waiting for the National Labor Court to decide whether to issue tie-up orders that would force the rebel physicians – who refuse to accept the labor accord signed by the Israel Medical Association at the end of August – to return to the wards.
The Finance Ministry announced that its staffers would go on a collective holiday until after Succot, but a team of negotiators will nevertheless remain on the job to try to reach an agreement with the residents.
A representative of the young doctors declared: “We have no desire to conduct negotiations over an offer that doesn’t relate to us.”
They rejected Prime Minister (and Health Minister) Binyamin Netanyahu’s proposal – first raised weeks ago – to add “thousands of shekels a month” to the wages of residents if they sign a commitment to work only in public institutions and not in private ones as well to earn more. But the residents argued that the offer didn’t address them or their problems.
“It applies to only a small number of young specialists, that is, doctors who have finished their residency. The prime minister’s offer doesn’t relate to residents at all and it is strange that until now, his office didn’t understand who was standing on the other side of the crisis,” the representative said.
Medical residents “have no desire to conduct negotiations over an offer that doesn’t relate to residents and completely ignores the issue of shortening the [collective] agreement. Such an offer cannot bring any change to the health system,” the residents said in a statement.
Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu called on medical residents to return to work, saying they need to “show responsibility.
Yesterday I offered the residents an addition of thousands of shekels to their monthly salaries in exchange for working in the the public sector once they become doctors.
“That is a generous offer that significantly improves work conditions and contributes to citizens who are hospitalized in the public health system,” the prime minister maintained.
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef told Army Radio that while the doctors should return to their posts, the government should do its utmost to find a solution to the crisis and allocate enough resources to meet their demands, as people’s lives were at stake.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview that while he appreciated the physicians’ work, they were “not respecting the law.” Their representative organization is the Israel Medical Association, he said, thus they could not rebel against it and come up with their own demands after a nine-year labor accord was signed. “That’s anarchy!” he said.
The Treasury has issued figures for what it says are the monthly wages of hospital residents before and after the wage agreement. Their starting gross wages were NIS 17,000 (these include six monthly night and weekend shifts) and have now risen to to NIS 21,000 in the center of the country and almost NIS 26,000 in the periphery, the Treasury said.
The Health Ministry, which pays the wages of residents at government hospitals, declined to confirm or deny these figures, fearful of siding with or upsetting either the Treasury or the residents who serve as the nuts and bolts of daily hospital care.
The ministry said it has “not had time” to consider the possibility of preparing a government bill to charge Israelis who studied medicine here for their highly subsidized education if they decided to emigrate to a better paying job abroad soon after their graduation.
Never faced before with the mass resignations of residents, it had not thought of it, The Jerusalem Post was told, but it was a possibility in view of the new reality.