Public hospitals across the country will be operating with only a skeleton staff on Tuesday, starting at 7 A.M., as doctors resume the strike they began last month. The strike will continue at various locations intermittently until at least May 12, unless doctors reach an agreement with the treasury before then.
If no progress is made in talks aimed at securing higher wages and better benefits for doctors, health care officials said they expect the strike to worsen after Independence Day, which takes place May 10. In that case, they said, the Israel Medical Association could declare an unlimited strike, without any defined time restrictions.
As part of Tuesday's strike, non-emergency operations and other treatment will be postponed and hospital outpatient clinics will be closed. Emergency care will be given if approved by each hospital's exceptions committee, and patients will receive treatments including emergency cancer treatment, dialysis and in-vitro fertilization.
All government-run hospitals will take part in today's strike, along with those run by the Clalit health maintenance organization and Hadassah University Hospital, Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Bikur Holim, all in Jerusalem.
Tomorrow the strike will shift to some Clalit and Leumit health clinics.
Doctors will not be seeing patients at the Clalit health clinics in the Sharon-Shomron and southern regions, which will affect cities and towns including Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva, Hadera, Herzliya, Kfar Sava, Kiryat Gat, Netanya, Netivot, Ra'anana and Sderot. Doctors will also be on strike at Leumit health clinics in the Jerusalem area.
The strike will move back to hospitals on Thursday, but will only affect outpatient clinics at hospitals in Tel Aviv and southward, which will be closed for the day.
Also Thursday, representatives of the Israel Medical Association and the treasury are scheduled to meet for the next round of negotiations.
On Sunday, Memorial Day eve, surgeons across the country are expected to carry out a minimum of operations because of a medical conference. The following Thursday, May 12, outpatient clinics at hospitals north of Tel Aviv will be closed.
The IMA announced that the strike would end earlier if it reached a deal with the Finance Ministry before then.
At the moment, the two sides are deadlocked, with the IMA announcing this week that it would not renew negotiations unless the treasury's representative to the talks - Ilan Levin, the treasury official responsible for wages - is replaced or publicly apologizes for saying the doctors were going to end up killing people "for the sake of a wage increase."
Israel Medical Association chairman Leonid Eidelman described the comments, which Levin made last week, as incitement. Eidelman has filed a complaint against Levin with the Civil Service Commission.
Treasury officials said Levin's comments were taken out of context and accused the doctors of using the issue to avoid resolving the conflict over wages.
The Finance Ministry said it recently agreed to a wage hike of 20 percent for medical specialists and for doctors working in outlying areas or understaffed specialties, but that the Israel Medical Association is seeking a 50 percent across-the-board increase in hourly wages for public-sector doctors as well as a bonus for doctors in outlying areas or understaffed specialties.
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