IDF Rambam Hospital - Hagai Fried - 12.5.2011
Soldiers arriving at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, May 12, 2011. Photo by Hagai Fried
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The physicians' committee at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center threatened yesterday to strike immediately after learning that hospital management intended to abide by a Health Ministry directive to dismiss 10 specialists who had tendered letters of resignation.

The letters would take effect in a month. When the hospital backtracked and declined to carry out the ministry directive, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman summoned the hospital's deputy director, Dr. Shimon Reisner, to appear at a hearing in the near future for failure to carry out the order.

Although Litzman said he does not at the moment intend to impose sanctions on the hospital administration, his associates said Litzman insists that the 10 specialists at Rambam be dismissed. Yesterday, at other hospitals, senior physicians threatened to strike in solidarity with the Rambam doctors, but then Rambam's management made it clear the Health Ministry directive would not be carried out.

Patients who sought treatment in the Rambam emergency room reported having to wait to be treated due to the absence of the medical residents who did not come to work.

"I'm very proud of the step taken by the [Rambam hospital] administration," said Dr. Shimon Martik, who heads the hospital's urology department and is one of those who tendered his resignation. "Doctors from Rambam's management, unlike the Health Ministry, understand that without Rambam's doctors, it won't be able to continue to function," Martik said.

Among the other specialists who submitted letters of resignation at Rambam are the head of the department of plastic surgery; the head of an orthopedic unit, the director of the neurology department and the head of a pediatric unit and a surgical unit.

The Rambam Medical Center management issued the following statement: "The doctors whom we were asked [by the Health Ministry] to dismiss immediately have been working at Rambam for many years and represent essential fields in the treatment of patients. Accepting their immediate resignations would constitute a severe blow to the patients."

The Health Ministry said in part: "Because the request by Rambam doctors to resign has not been withdrawn, despite the fact that the hospital is experiencing a major shortage of facilities, and against the backdrop of hearings before the High Court of Justice over a solution to the doctor crisis, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman asked that the request of 10 specialists be responded to and that their letters of resignation be accepted in actual practice. The decision came after the ministry's director general [Ronni Gamzu] made the severity of the situation clear to those doctors."