residents - Moti Milrod - November 17 2011
Medical students protesting in solidarity with the residents at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv on November 16, 2011. The sign at left reads 'Price tag.' Photo by Moti Milrod
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Israel's medical residents notified the High Court on Sunday that they were willing to return to “intensive negotiations” with the Finance Ministry, though they ask that these negotiations be limited to one week. In addition, residents ask to choose their representatives at the negotiations.

In their response to the court, residents accepted the High Court’s proposal to hold negotiations with a mediator, who will work to settle the crisis under the aegis of the High Court. The residents reiterated their demand that negotiations be held regarding the duration of the agreement signed three months ago, currently in force until July 2019.

 

The decision to return to talks was reached as residents who stayed away from work last week met on Saturday night in Tel Aviv to discuss their response to the High Court.

However, the move to return to negotiations comes as health-care related protests are planned in. As of Monday, medical students from the Hebrew University in Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, and the Technion in Haifa will strike until further notice.

Students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem will strike starting from 12 P.M. until the end of the day. In addition, a massive protest participated by medical students from across the country will take place bear the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem.

Previous attempts at dialogue between the residents and the treasury failed after only three meetings, due to the treasury's refusal to discuss reopening the agreement or shortening its duration. Over the past few days officials in the Israel Medical Association and the bureau of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman have been discussing the possibility of appointing an arbitrator to solve the conflict.

At the end of the week, Prof. Joshua Shemer, chairman of the board of directors of Assouta Medical Center, Tel Aviv, proposed the conditional appointment of an arbitrator who would discuss the opening or shortening of the duration of the agreement only in four or five years. However, Shemer said the treasury was having difficulty accepting this idea.

The residents' original petition to the High Court was to withdraw the order by the National Labor Court preventing them from resigning. It was combined with a second petition, calling for the abrogation of the collective wage agreement and the application of the law mandating maximum work hours in Israel to public-sector physicians, preventing them from having to work 26 hours straight.

If the residents tell the High Court they will not go back to negotiations, the National Labor Court is expected to set a hearing on the state's demand to charge the doctors with contempt of court for refusing to return to work last week.

A senior treasury official said last week: "We do not intend to demand the arrest of the hundreds of residents who absented themselves, but we will demand they be individually fined for contempt of court and harm to the public healthcare system in Israel."

The residents are also expected to renew the widespread protests they began last week. A number of protests are to take place in Tel Aviv, drawing doctors from all over the country. Doctors from Hadassah University Hospital, whose residents have so far not been absent from work, are also expected to join the protests in Tel Aviv.