State seeks injunction against residents' resignations

Medical residents announce resignations at press conference; prime minister asks for two week delay in resignations; National Labor Court will convene hearing following state's urgent request.

Doctors demo311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Doctors demo311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The state filed an urgent request with the National Labor Court on Monday after several hundred medical residents resigned and did not show up for work on Monday morning as part of the ongoing labor dispute in the health system.
The state asked the court to impose protective injunctions preventing doctors' resignations from taking effect and forcing them to return to work pending an emergency court hearing.
Several hundred medical residents resigned and did not show up for work Monday morning as part of a labor dispute in the health system.
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The National Labor Court announced that it would convene a hearing at 5 p.m. on Monday following the state's request.
Also being considered was an order that would see more senior doctors transferred to departments where the residents' absence has created backups. Such a process was already signed off on by Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein but still needs to be authorized by the director-general of the Health Ministry, Army Radio reported.
Court President Nili Arad ordered the Clalit health services to file a response to the state's request for a hearing by 2 p.m. today.
Those doctors who have submitted resignation letters were also ordered to submit their responses to the state's urgent request to the court.
Judge Arad also ordered the state to ensure hospital managers attend Monday's hearing, to establish their case for damages caused by residents' resignations.
"My friends and I have decided to resign," residents' representative Dr. Gabi Heran said at a press conference Monday morning, calling on the labor courts not to order them back to work.
"We respect the court," Heran continued, "far more than Finance Ministry wages supervisor Ilan Levin. Today we will ask the court not to issue an injunction or confinement."
"It is not the doctors that led us to this depressing situation," he added. "It is the state that needs to take responsibility for its actions."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he is working to solve the medical crisis and asked medical residents to put off their resignations from public hospitals by an additional two weeks.
"[The] prime minister asked the residents for a two week delay and he expects them to show responsibility," a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.
Following the mass resignation, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called on the residents to respect the law and return to work.  "We all need to respect the law and the rule of law," Steinitz said in a statement, urging the medical residents to "return to work and hold discussions with us. We are looking for creative ways to improve certain things within the already-written agreement with doctors, including additional money."
Also speaking at the press conference, Dr. Oren Feldman asserted that only Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's involvement could solve the crisis. "I turn to you, Mr. Netanyahu. Please intervene."
According to Army Radio, hundreds of residents did not show up for their morning shifts: 104 at Ichilov Hospital at Sourasky Medical Center, 71 at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, 77 at Rambam Medical Center and 18 at Bnai Zion Hospital.
The decision to resign was met by some with criticism. Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen of Shas told Army Radio, "The residents' resignation will cost human lives." Cohen accused hospital administrators of cynically trying to expand their businesses toward private insurance at the expense of patients.
Following the failure of the negotiations to produce a solution to the labor dispute, the sides had been expected to meet at the National Labor Court on Monday, where the state will likely request an injunction be issued against the resignations.
Thus far, the National Labor Court has declined to let residents resign over what they claim are unfair conditions agreed upon in the Israel Medical Association’s nine-year labor agreement with the employers, which was signed at the end of August.
After walking out on the talks with the Finance Ministry, the medical residents' representatives expressed frustration with the Treasury's "failure to understand the reality of the situation" and called on Netanyahu to intervene.
Without a compromise, all the sides have much to lose, as the physicians would not be given their jobs back once they carried out their threats to leave, and the Health Ministry desperately looked for other doctors to fill their places.
To prevent outright chaos in the event that the residents resign from their posts in the wards and emergency rooms, the Health Ministry opened a situation room in its Rehov Rivka office that would coordinate and make arrangements for specialists to fill the holes; ministry officials know that the arrangements would be only temporary.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to this report.