The health care system is bracing for another dramatic day of decisions as it awaits the medical residents' response on Sunday morning to the High Court of Justice's proposal that they return to negotiations with the Finance Ministry.
If the residents agree to the proposal, it would mean returning to talks based on the agreement signed with the Israel Medical Association in late August. However, the residents would reportedly find this difficult because their main demand is to shorten the duration of the agreement, which is in force until July 2019, to only three years.
The residents who stayed away from work last week met on Saturday night in Tel Aviv to discuss their response to the High Court. The residents are expected to tell the High Court today that they will return to talks only if the discussion includes shortening the duration of the agreement or reopening it.
Previous attempts at dialogue between the residents and the treasury failed after only three meetings, due to the treasury's refusal to discuss reopening the agreement or shortening its duration. Over the past few days officials in the Israel Medical Association and the bureau of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman have been discussing the possibility of appointing an arbitrator to solve the conflict. At the end of the week, Prof. Joshua Shemer, chairman of the board of directors of Assouta Medical Center, Tel Aviv, proposed the conditional appointment of an arbitrator who would discuss the opening or shortening of the duration of the agreement only in four or five years. However, Shemer said the treasury was having difficulty accepting this idea.
The residents' original petition to the High Court was to withdraw the order by the National Labor Court preventing them from resigning. It was combined with a second petition, calling for the abrogation of the collective wage agreement and the application of the law mandating maximum work hours in Israel to public-sector physicians, preventing them from having to work 26 hours straight.
If the residents tell the High Court they will not go back to negotiations, the National Labor Court is expected to set a hearing on the state's demand to charge the doctors with contempt of court for refusing to return to work last week.
A senior treasury official said last week: "We do not intend to demand the arrest of the hundreds of residents who absented themselves, but we will demand they be individually fined for contempt of court and harm to the public healthcare system in Israel."
The residents are also expected to renew the widespread protests they began last week. A number of protests are to take place in Tel Aviv, drawing doctors from all over the country. Doctors from Hadassah University Hospital, whose residents have so far not been absent from work, are also expected to join the protests in Tel Aviv.
Kadima is expected tomorrow to propose a motion of no-confidence following what it called the government's "failure to manage the crisis in public health."
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