Doctors strike protest
Doctors protesting in Tel Aviv in May 2011. Photo by Motti Milrod

The physicians' strike is set to continue Wednesday and Thursday, with surgeries postponed and outpatient clinics remaining closed. Only emergency and oncology operations will be performed, and day hospitalization units in the general, geriatric and psychiatric hospitals will be closed.

After a previous round of talks broke up on Monday, Israel Medical Association and Finance Ministry representatives reconvened on Tuesday to discuss their disagreements with the mediation of Tel Aviv Labor Court President Michael Spitzer.

Negotiations over the past week have focused largely on adding more job slots for hospital physicians to reduce the number of shifts worked by residents. The Health Ministry tried to intervene on this issue, but its intervention actually wound up delaying the effort to reach an agreement by creating uncertainty over the plan that had been under discussion.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman had announced that he wanted to cut the length of residents' shifts from 26 to 20 hours. But the idea sparked a backlash from the IMA, which termed it "populist" and "dangerous," saying it would effectively ensure that residents weren't at the hospitals in the morning, when most training takes place.

The IMA's chairman, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, said yesterday that if there is a breakthrough in the talks, the strike action planned for the next two days will be canceled.

But the IMA still plans to begin the next phase of its strike as of July 1. In that phase, only the number of physicians specified in the last signed staffing agreement, which dates from 1977, will show up for work. That is likely to cause hospitals across the country to collapse from lack of manpower.