Text size

Following five months of work stoppages and negotiations, a new wage agreement was signed late last week with the doctors. It is an agreement that improves public medicine in Israel.

The chairman of the Israel Medical Association, Leonid Eidelman could have demanded an identical pay increase for all doctors and this way avoid the mutiny which broke out against him. But Eidelman wanted to deal with two problems which have not been dealt with for years: the shortage of doctors in the periphery and the unwillingness of young doctors to specialize in certain fields that require hard work and for which there is no private practice.

Indeed, the agreement deals with these problems. It gives high pay raises to doctors who move to the periphery, and high pay for those in areas of medicine that are facing shortages, like treating infants born prematurely and intensive care. The agreement also adds 1,000 positions for doctors in the health system, which will allow doctors to dedicate more time to their patients.

These high pay raises will of course require lower wage increases to doctors in central Israel and for those specializing in fields of medicine where there is no shortage of doctors. Therefore the agreement has caused them to strongly oppose it.

The agreement also improves the service that will be available in hospitals for the general public during the evening and night time, because specialists with as much as 10 years of experience will also be part of the roster for doctors on duty.

The average wage increase for all doctors stands at 47 percent, and it will be paid over a nine-year period with the majority of the sum, 70 percent, paid during the first three years of the agreement. In other words, this is a substantive real wage increase.

In order to comprehend how substantive this increase is, we should remember that following two months of negotiations and work stoppages, the treasury offered a 28 percent wage increase, which was then raised to 39 percent at which time a deal was almost signed. But then began the "mutiny of the interns" and the treasury increased its offer to 47 percent. Also worth remembering is that during the last agreement the doctors were given a 24 percent wage increase which was spread over 10 years, so the current deal offers them double.

Medicine is an important profession and doctors in public medicine should be supported. It appears that in view of the budgetary restraints, this agreement carries out this function well.