Doctor
Doctor illustration. Photo by Kalkala
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The country’s state hospitals will grind to a halt on Sunday unless the strike declared by the hospitals’ administrative and maintenance workers is averted. Union representatives met Finance Ministry officials last night in a bid to solve the crisis.

The hospitals’ 10,000 administrative and maintenance staff, including psychiatrists and gerontologists, have declared a strike beginning at 6 A.M. on Sunday, which would disrupt or halt services including laundry, food, logistics, cleaning and bathing.

The workers union has issued instructions to operate skeleton crews on an emergency footing at the hospitals and to set up a committee to deal with emergency cases.

The workers are demanding that the Finance Ministry implement the wage agreement they signed seven months ago to equalize their terms with the Clalit health maintenance organization’s hospital workers.

The agreement stipulates a 5-percent wage raise that was due in August 2010 and a 3-percent raise that was due from August 2011. That first phase was not carried out.

“These workers receive low wages; some of them even receive an income supplement, and they do the difficult physical work in the hospital,” said Rachel Demarkado, chairwoman of the workers union at Kfar Shaul Hospital. “They deserve a raise, as the HMO workers have received.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli Medical Association’s negotiations with the Finance Ministry ended yesterday morning with no progress. The doctors announced a labor dispute two weeks ago, enabling them to go on strike this Sunday.

In their discussions at the IMA offices late last night, the doctors did not decide on a date for launching a strike. But they are expected to carry out minor acts of protest, such as meetings during work hours to explain their positions.

Doctors’ demands

The doctors are demanding a 50-percent wage rise, a fund for retiring doctors, additional doctor positions, incentives for doctors in the country’s outskirts, longer training periods and extending visits to general practitioners to 15 minutes from 10 minutes.

The Finance Ministry says the average doctor’s monthly salary is NIS 26,322, while the doctors’ figures indicate that the average salary is NIS 24,000, NIS 11,000 of which is overtime.

Finance Ministry officials called on the doctors yesterday to continue the talks “to minimize the gaps between the two sides .... We’re making the utmost efforts to avoid a strike,” one official said.

According to the chairman of the IMA union, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, “The Finance Ministry doesn’t understand our resolve to save the public health system. We won’t make do with cosmetic solutions that make no real difference. With each passing day the patients pay the price, and we have no time to waste while our patients suffer.”

The last doctors’ strike took place in 2000 and lasted four and a half months.