Medical residents
Medical residents demonstrating in Tel Aviv. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Hospitals are bracing to operate on emergency footing beginning this morning as the resignations of 669 residents go into effect - barring any last-minute ruling by the National Labor Court, which was deliberating the validity of the resignations late last night. By Wednesday, the resignations of a total of 1,067 residents are to take effect.

If the court rules that the mass resignation is not valid, because it constitutes an unsanctioned labor action rather than a decision by individuals, back-to-work orders will be delivered to each resident.

Dr. Gidi Stein, head of Beilinson Hospital's Internal Medicine department, where only three residents out of six are expected to show up this morning, said Saturday that in the face of the "bitter cry" of some of the most idealistic and devoted young people in the country, the government, instead of trying to understand their distress, "crushes, vilifies and delegitimizes them." Stein said the Finance Ministry had "stolen the illusion that public medicine is more than just a clause in the budget."

As hospitals prepared for the expected shortage of residents, the doctors' committee at Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava, for example, called on the public not to go to the hospital unnecessarily because of disruptions in normal work. But the Health Ministry said that no directive had been issued not to go to a particular hospital, and further updates would come from the ministry as needed.

The head of the Health Ministry's medical administration, Dr. Hezi Levy, instructed that the resigning residents be put on the schedule in September as usual, because the ministry views the mass resignation as illegal - an opinion that is shared by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

The doctors' committees at some hospitals, including Meir and Ichilov, have opposed management's demand that specialists take on-call shifts until the crisis is resolved, and discussions are still underway on the matter.

The Health Ministry has ordered hospitals not to postpone essential procedures, such as cancer surgery or dialysis.

Residents taking part in last night's March of the Million reiterated their call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in the crisis.

The residents are protesting the collective wage agreement signed 10 days ago between the treasury and the Israel Medical Association, which they say was signed without consulting them or meeting their major demands.