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A labor dispute will disrupt regular activity at state-run hospitals starting today. Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and Assaf Harofeh in Tzrifin will be working in "weekend" format. Outpatient clinics at these hospitals will be closed. Scheduled surgeries will be put off to a later date, excepting urgent operations, which will continue to take place. There will be no orderlies or sterile supplies services.

Starting on Sunday, the Histadrut labor federation will announce the configuration of sanctions for the following day. The fifteen hospitals operated by the Kupat Holim Clalit health maintenance organization, including Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava, will continue to operate as usual.

Ariel Yaakobi, chairman of the state employee's union in the Histadrut said the sanctions are in protest of lack of manpower, creating a heavy work load on hospital support staff.

"We declared a labor dispute a year and a half ago, after the finance ministry cut 130 jobs. Now it is willing to add the jobs, but only through subcontractor companies, and not as state employees," Yaakobi said.

The Histadrut has demanded that every employee of the hospital be hired as a state employee and party to the group labor agreement, and not subcontracted employees.

Yaakobi called on the public to refrain from going to hospitals where sanctions are being held, since most of the services will be unavailable and emergency rooms will be operating on a limited basis. Yaakobi said that the organization had warned of an ever increasing shortage of administrative and housekeeping personnel in hospitals some two years ago.