residents - Daniel Bar-On - 05082011
Tel Hashomer residents ahead of a press conference announcing their resignations Thursday. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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More than 300 medical residents handed in their resignations to protest the agreement being hammered out by the Israel Medical Association and the Finance Ministry that would put an end to the doctors' strike.

At a meeting held Thursday at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, the residents decided to hand in their resignations in order to pressure the IMA to work toward improving the terms of the agreement being negotiated, particularly in the area of hourly wages. The move came a day after the Finance Ministry agreed to some of the residents' demands, including an increase in hospital positions and a reduction in night shifts.

In recent weeks, more than 1,000 residents signed letters of resignation. A decision to hand in their resignations was made by a majority vote Thursday, with more than 70 percent of the representatives of the residents in the union meeting supporting the move.

At the end of the meeting, 143 letters of resignation were handed in to the Sheba Medical Center administration by the residents there. Later, 200 other resignation letters were submitted to other hospitals. Additional ones will be submitted on Sunday morning. The resignations will go into effect in 30 days. At this stage, the only residents who will not be filing resignation letters are pregnant women.

"The campaign of the doctors has gone on too long, and nothing has happened," said Dr. Nadav Haim, a surgical resident at Sheba. "However, since we joined in, things began to move. We believe that the breakthrough reported last week has to do with our decision to make use of letters of resignation. We received more residents' positions, but there has been no significant social statement on bolstering public medicine."

Haim described the agreement being negotiated as shameful and its gains easily erased. "We cannot fill the positions today with this humiliating salary paid to residents.

"Even at my hospital, which is very much in demand and is in the center of the country, there are positions that are not filled, while in hospitals in the periphery the situation is worse. We support the IMA struggle, which is an organization that represents us, and we are not trying to undermine it. We are aware of the seriousness of our decision and its implications, and under these circumstances we feel that we must take action and save medicine in Israel."

"It is clear to every one of us, and now also to the citizens of the country, that we are fighting for our home and our fight is just," the residents wrote in a letter accompanying their resignations, delineating their red lines in the negotiations.

On Wednesday the Finance Ministry accepted the IMA's demand for an additional 1,000 doctors' positions in hospitals and a reduction of night shifts for residents to six per month, as they demanded.

However, the failure to reach agreement on the demand to raise the wages from the current 24 NIS per hour to NIS 50 prompted the residents to make good their threat to resign.