Doctors celebrating - David Bachar - 26082011
Doctors celebrating after signing the agreement Thursday. Photo by David Bachar
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The agreement signed between the Finance Ministry and the Israel Medical Association Thursday after almost a year of negotiations and a long strike is expected to increase the competition between hospitals in the center of the country and the periphery.

Today the demand for residency posts in hospitals in the center of the country is significantly higher than in the periphery. In the center doctors have to wait a long time for a residency post, while in the periphery almost every post is readily available.

In recent years Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital was highest in demand among medical students, followed by Rambam in Haifa, Beilinson in Petah Tikva and Hadassah in Jerusalem. Hospitals in the periphery were far behind.

The agreement will offer doctors who carry out their residency in the periphery a 20 percent higher wage than those in the center, additional positions and moving grants of NIS 300,000. Those who choose to specialize in fields where there is shortage of doctors will receive grants worth up to NIS 500,000.

At the last moment a controversy between the Finance Ministry and IMA threatened to delay the agreement's signing. The ministry wanted to define the grant as a "standing loan" and condition it on the time of residence, which mostly lasts about four years. But the IMA insisted on calling it a loan, which enables deducting a lower tax from it, and the ministry finally agreed.

The IMA is aware the agreement is expected to increase the demand for medical posts in the periphery and reduce it in the center. "There is no need for concern over the demand in the center. There will always be doctors who want to live and work in the center," a senior IMA member said.

Some doctors say encouraging residents to work in the periphery will be a bonus to outlying communities. Dr. Zeev Feldman, a senior IMA member and neurosurgeon in the Sheba Medical Center, said "the IMA is proud to lead the change in strengthening the periphery."