Dr. Leonid Edelman -  David Bachar - 28082011
Dr. Leonid Edelman announcing the agreement last week. Photo by David Bachar
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Even though the Health Ministry resolved the long-running doctors' dispute last week, its problems aren't yet over. It is now preparing for the resignations of more than 1,000 medical residents and several dozen specialists beginning on September 4, while the institute that oversees standards for pharmaceuticals is to begin sanctions Sunday, which may lead to shortages in imported medications.

The medical residents are dissatisfied with the collective wage agreement signed late last week between the government and the Israel Medical Association after six months of protest action. The residents say they are yet to see the final version of the agreement.

The residents, who submitted resignation letters on August 4, are to outline their objections to the agreement at a press conference this afternoon.

The Health Ministry director general, Dr. Roni Gamzu, has ordered that dialogue be opened between the residents, hospital directors and the various medical specialty associations, to explain the ramifications that such a mass resignation will have on hospitals.

The Health Ministry had earlier decided that patients might be transferred from one hospital to another to deal with a shortage of residents, and specialists would be on call to replace residents until the crisis is resolved.

"Directives will be sent to hospital directors in the coming week on the required mode of operation in keeping with the evaluation and the process of dialogue," a statement by the Health Ministry said.

The collective wage agreement signed on Thursday met most of the residents' demands, including average pay hikes of 49%, a reduction of on-call shifts to six a month, and 1,000 new positions for doctors.

However, the residents said they have not yet seen the final version of the signed agreement, and that apparently the wage increases depend on the number of on-call shifts. Since the on-call shifts are to be reduced, they say their pay will not rise significantly.

The residents are also worried that when they finish their residency, they will still be required to do on-call shifts without significant remuneration.

A statement by the body representing the residents said: "The signing of the agreement only strengthens the young doctors who believe that the agreement is a bad one that is pushing them out of public medicine."

Meanwhile, the 70 employees of the national institute that oversees standards in imported medications have announced sanctions, beginning today. They will not be testing imported medications to ensure compliance with standards, which they say will lead to serious shortages within days.

According to Asher Goldschlager, the chairman of Israel's organization of microbiologists and biochemists, the sanctions come after overtime for employees of the institute - which is under the aegis of the Health Ministry - was slashed last month. Moreover, some 25 percent of its personnel are now employed under personal contracts, which is seen as a step toward unwanted privatization.

Dafna Mizrachi, of the institute's workers' committee, says current conditions do not allow them to do their jobs properly.

The Health Ministry responded: "The strike threat is a PR ritual. In fact, the issue is under study and the ministry is working to prevent a shortage of medications, in keeping with protocol."