Medical students, doctors' strike - 22.7.11
Medical students joining protest for improved working conditions on July 22, 2011. Photo by Dudu Bakar
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Hundreds of medical students from all over Israel gathered Friday morning at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hopsital in support of the medical interns' struggle for improved working conditions.

The students set out on a protest march from Ichilov hospital to Tel Aviv public library and cultural center, Beit Ariela. They were joined by some of the participants of the 'Tent City' protest against high housing prices.

Protesters carried signs saying, "It's better being a dog than a doctor" and some of them brought dogs along for the march.

Leaders of the tent city protest are preparing for mass demonstrations on Saturday night. The protesters are expected to march from their tent encampment on Rothschild Blvd. to the plaza in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where a rally will be held. Currently the only two definite speakers are the head of National Union of Israeli Students, Itzik Shmuli, and Dafne Leef, who organized the initial housing protest. Those involved in coordinating the event said no politicians will be speaking.

Organizers declined Thursday to predict the size of the demonstration, but said it would be a significant moment in their campaign.

On Friday, a wrench was thrown into efforts to resolve the ongoing doctors’ strike when a large number of residents walked off the job yesterday and joined protests against the emerging agreement.

In addition, about 300 residents and specialist physicians from Ichilov Hospital staged a protest march on the Israel Medical Association’s headquarters in Ramat Gan. They were later joined by doctors from other hospitals. The protesters briefly blocked Jabotinsky Street and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has so far not intervened in the IMA’s negotiations with the Finance Ministry.

The residents repeated their demand for the immediate addition of 1,000 slots for physicians at the country’s hospitals, instead of the 650 new positions over three years that they were told are provided for in the agreement taking shape in negotiations with the Finance Ministry. Yona Weissbuch, who heads Mirsham, an advocacy organization for medical residents, also demanded allocations for 1,500 physicians who would get additional pay for working full-time at public hospitals rather than also engaging in private practice on the side.

Meanwhile, the IMA said in a statement yesterday that negotiations with the Finance Ministry had broken down. “We are waiting for an assessment by the [labor] court,” it said.
The doctors’ sanctions have so far dragged on for 111 days.