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Doctor illustration. Photo by Kalkala
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The Israeli Medical Association announced Sunday a work dispute between doctors in the public sector and the Finance Ministry, after extensive negotiations failed to satisfy their demands to improve the doctors' working conditions.

If the negotiations do not reach an understanding in the next 14 days, more than 20,000 doctors will go on strike for the first time in 10 years. The doctor's strike in 2000 lasted nearly five months.

In an attempt to avoid the strike, further negotiations have been scheduled for next week. The two parties have been holding ongoing negotiations for over seven months in an attempt to find a solution for the severe lack of medical staff in hospitals and low wages.

The IMA sent out a letter to all doctors in the public sector, including doctors working in HMO's and government owned hospitals, instructing them to prepare for a possible strike.

"After a decade during which the doctors did not strike out of a deep sense of responsibility toward the public and the system, and after infinite attempts to find real solutions for the public health system's problems, we have come to the conclusion that the finance ministry wants a sick health system," IMA Director Dr. Leonid Eidelman said in a statement.

"Announcing a work dispute is a very difficult step for us, we are concerned about severe harm done to the patients, but not doing anything and standing idle as the system crashes will be more severe and with long-term implications," he added.