Doctors Across Israel Plan to Intensify Their Sanctions

MKs call on Netanyahu to get involved to settle doctors' dispute.

Medical residents and specialists are threatening to step up their sanctions, with hunger strikes at several hospitals today.

This comes despite rumors that the Israel Medical Association and the Finance Ministry had made progress in their negotiations yesterday.

medical - Emil Salman - August 3 2011
Emil Salman

Late last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Israel Medical Association Head Dr. Leonid Eidelman and asked him to end his own hunger strike. Eidelman politely refused.

Yesterday evening, medical residents from around the country convened an emergency meeting at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva to consider additional sanctions. A National Labor Court injunction currently bars them from striking. The residents suggested ideas including a hunger strike, which could seriously disrupt the medical system, as well as mass resignations effective in a month.

The residents' representatives met with Eidelman at his protest tent opposite the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. He urged them to show restraint.

"The Israel Medical Association is ... striking the operating rooms one day and the clinics another," said Meir Hospital doctors' committee chairman Zvi Klein. "This isn't serious.

The IMA wants to cool things down, and we want to heat things up. Things are getting delayed. Eidelman has turned himself into a martyr and that's not what we want."

Eidelman has been on a hunger strike since Monday a week ago.

The medical residents' organization, Mirsham, yesterday said that any agreement reached with the IMA must receive the residents' consent as well.

The doctors' committee at Meir Hospital, which represents 500 physicians, including 200 residents, decided independently to step up sanctions this week.

In a letter to Eidelman, Klein stated that many of the doctors at Meir Hospital are pressing to step up sanctions and that they cannot be repressed for long. Klein said he and his colleagues wanted the hospital to operate on a Sabbath schedule, or for Israel's doctors to launch a general hunger strike, "to have a substantial public impact," Klein wrote.

Similar calls came from doctors at Beilinson Hospital and Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. As of press time, however, sanctions are expected to consist of limiting surgery to urgent cases and to cancer patients.

At a meeting of the Knesset health lobby yesterday, MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima ) called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get involved in settling the strike.

"Only he can order budgets. The fight over the sum is the name of the game at the moment," she said.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud ), who also attended the meeting, called on Netanyahu to meet with Eidelman to end the dispute. Netanyahu is officially health minister, in addition to being prime minister.

The High Court of Justice yesterday held a hearing on a petition filed last week by attorney David Forer seeking an order compelling Netanyahu to intervene in the strike. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch took the IMA to task, however, saying that the strike had become a goal in and of itself.

Sanctions are a means to an end and not the end itself, she said, adding: "Over the past week, you have not been giving the impression that you are interested in negotiating."

Beinisch asked the parties to submit a document listing matters in dispute.