Doctors demonstrate Tel Aviv, May 22, 2011
Doctors demonstrate in north Tel Aviv, May 22, 2011. Photo by Motti Milrod
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Close to a thousand doctors turned out en masse Sunday morning at the Reading parking lot in north Tel Aviv as part of efforts to step up their campaign to improve doctors' working conditions and pay.

All but one of the nation's public hospitals are on strike, as the Israel Medical Association adopts more drastic measures in its struggle.

Dr. Leonid Eidelman, chairman of the IMA, announced at the mass north Tel Aviv demonstration that as of July, all hospital doctors will only work based on predetermined collective agreements.

Residents will not be permitted to work more than six on-call shifts a month, according to the collective agreement, and specialists will not be put on-call at all. This will mean a significant decrease in the number of doctors on duty per-shift in each hospital department.

"We will continue with our struggle until we can deliver on our promises to the people of Israel," Eidelman said, adding that protest efforts will persist, "even for many more months if necessary."

The strike is taking place on one of the busiest days of the week for hospitals and has taken effect in all public hospitals except for Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed. The north Israel hospital received a special exemption because of its proximity to Mount Meron, where widespread Lag Ba'omer bonfire celebrations took Saturday night, requiring higher than usual alert.

In all other hospitals, surgery and other treatments not deemed urgent are canceled, and outpatient clinics are closed. Essential services in emergency rooms, maternity wards and intensive care will continue to be provided, as will cancer, dialysis and in-vitro fertilization treatments.

"The doctors' call is loud and clear," said Eidelman in preparation for the mass demonstration Sunday morning. "They will not go on carrying the system on their backs, and they will not agree to continue giving treatments that are too little and too late to their patients."