Doctors Say Sheba Hospital Tracking Their Whereabouts via Cell Phone

IMA chairman accuses hospital director of breaking agreement with staff by figuring out doctors' whereabouts outside the hospital when they report they are working.

Physicians at Sheba Medical Center have accused management of tracking them outside of work via their cell phones, which the hospital says doctors have used to clock in when they are still at home.

According to the collective wage agreement signed in August, doctors must clock in at the beginning and end of their shifts. But senior physicians at Sheba say the hospital's director, Prof. Zeev Rothstein, has been conducting surveillance to find out their location when they clock in via cell phone.

Alon Ron

One senior physician, M., who has worked at Sheba for 15 years, said Rothstein "simply does not trust its most senior and loyal doctors, who invest all of themselves in the hospital."

M. said Rothstein was using the time clock "as if it were a weapon, demanding authorization for every move, calling doctors and pestering them with questions like 'what were you doing at such and such a place at that time,' and 'do you have a girlfriend at that place?'"

A clause in the wage agreement, signed after a 159-day strike, requires doctors to clock in either by swiping their card at the hospital or by using a cell-phone application. Under the agreement, the clock will record only the entrance and exit times; it's not allowed to track the doctor's location.

The agreement states that activities outside the hospital, such as lecturing at universities or seminars, will be counted as work hours. The doctors say 98 percent of them have been signing in since the agreement went into effect, but management is treating their work outside the hospital as "private activity during work hours."

In a letter dated April 4, the chairman of the Israel Medical Association, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, accused Rothstein of breaking the agreement by figuring out doctors' whereabouts outside the hospital when they report they are working.

"This morning it was reported to us that in a major breach of the agreement you have all the location data for when the hospital's doctors report in - with no justifiable reason," Eidelman wrote.

Eidelman said senior doctors had been called to Rothstein's office to verify their locations for certain days, based on the data Rothstein had amassed. He urged on Rothstein to stop.

Sheba responded that it had checked doctors' locations via their cell phones "in light of numerous sign-ins from outside the hospital campus during February. Our check was carried out according to Appendix 7 of the collective wage agreement, which states that the employer can occasionally request from the technology firm all data on locations when sign-ins are made."

Sheba said that "over 50 percent of the doctors have reported that they were working from their home address." The hospital said it also checked more extensively, with the agreement of senior physicians, and noticed a glitch.

"In the next month a similar check will be made to find out whether the technology is disappointing or whether solutions to the defects have been found," Sheba said. "Clearly, after the system is working properly, the hospital will not recognize reports that doctors are working when they are at home."

The Israel Medical Association said Rothstein knew that glitches were a problem. "It is unfortunate that Prof. Rothstein is coming out against his doctors instead of supporting them," the IMA said.