Meir Hospital - Alon Ron
A nurse walking down the nearly empty halls of the outpatient clinic at Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava, May 3, 2011. Photo by Alon Ron
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Doctors will be on Shabbat schedule at the country's hospitals today, as their labor sanctions continue into their 15th week.

Hospital outpatient clinics will be closed, as will specialty clinics and day treatment centers. Only urgent surgery will be performed, and local exceptions committees will make decisions on the matter.

Today's strike will affect all public hospitals, including psychiatric and geriatric hospitals.

Representatives of the Israel Medical Association and the Finance Ministry are also due to return to the National Labor Court today, where efforts have been made to mediate the dispute.

Court President Nili Arad directed the parties to step up their talks in order to reach an agreement by next Tuesday. If a settlement is not reached by then, the court will reconsider a back-to-work request by the state.

Another hearing is scheduled for this Friday.

Arad asked the parties not to disclose the matters under discussion to the media. Yesterday the doctors denied a media report that an agreement would soon end the strike.

Meanwhile, calls are growing for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene. He has not gotten involved in the dispute directly.

Yesterday, the strike disrupted work in operating rooms at public hospitals. Surgery was performed only in urgent cases and on cancer patients.

Meanwhile, the Association of Nurses in Israel is pursuing its battle for additional nursing slots in internal medicine departments at the country's hospitals. The protests are being held at hospitals that lack nurses.

Yesterday, nurses at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer walked off the job in three internal medicine departments, leaving only custodial staff for emergencies.

"I support the nurses' demand for additional nurses," said Sheba director Zeev Rotstein, who added that his hospital has filled all the slots allotted to the hospital yet there is still a nurse shortage in every department. If the hospital gets permission to hire more nurses, they will be hired, he said.