Hospital-Eliyahu Heshkowitz
A hospital in Israel. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkowitz
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Doctor's salary agreement
Doctor's salary agreement

A year after the signing of a controversial wage agreement doctors' salaries have risen substantially but many physicians are nevertheless dissatisfied.

According to data collected by the Israel Medical Association, which functions as the doctors' trade union, on average the new contract raised doctors' salaries by 12.1 percent. Orthopedists, for instance, now gross NIS 3,518 more per month, on average, while surgeons earn NIS 5,359 more.

The biggest raises were for doctors in outlying areas, where the average increase to the monthly gross wage comes to NIS 5,052 and NIS 7,025 for orthopedists and surgeons, respectively. As a result, these areas have gained 184 doctors, which was the point of offering higher salaries to physicians working outside the center of the country.

The contract also gave bigger raises to doctors in specialties with chronic shortages, drawing 430 new doctors into these fields. Be'er Sheva's Soroka Medical Center, for example, was able to reopen an internal medicine ward that was closed due to a shortage of doctors, and several hospitals were able to fill empty neonatology slots.

Nevertheless, the IMA said, there is still a serious shortage of anesthesiologists, while the influx of doctors to internal medicine has caused a shortage in some subspecialties, such as nephrology.

Hospitals also face a doctor shortage on Friday mornings. The new contract moved doctors to a Sunday-Thursday, five-day work week plus 13 Fridays a year, which means insufficient coverage Friday morning. The IMA has proposed beginning the weekend on-call shift at 8 A.M. Friday instead of 1 P.M. as a remedy.

Health Ministry figures show that most hospitals, especially in the periphery, have more residents now. Resident numbers in Safed's Rebecca Sieff Hospital and Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, for example, rose 39 percent and 61 percent surge, respectively. But each resident works fewer shifts each month.

Many doctors loathe the new contract provisions, especially having to punch a time clock. As a result, claims contract foe Prof. Eran Dolev, "senior doctors leave the hospital earlier," working on the clock, rather than staying as long as needed, "and orderly shift-to-shift-handovers are gone," Dolev added.

Prof. Yehuda Ullmann said the time clock "validated measuring doctors' work by hours rather than productivity, and for ... doing the minimum necessary" rather than putting patients' welfare first.