Doctors at Israel's Public Hospitals Launch One-day Strike

Nearly all public hospitals to be closed Sunday; Doctors, medical students plan to hold mass demonstration at Reading parking lot in north Tel Aviv as part of stepping up their campaign.

All but one of the nation's public hospitals will be on strike today, as the Israel Medical Association adopts more drastic measures in its campaign to doctors' pay and other conditions.

The strike will take place on one of the busiest days of the week for hospitals. It will affect all public hospitals except for Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed, which received a special exemption because of its proximity to Mount Meron, where widespread Lag Ba'omer bonfire celebrations were taking place last night, requiring higher than usual alert.

Doctors protest
Orit Stern-Ben Tovim

In all other hospitals, surgery and other treatments not deemed urgent will be canceled, and outpatient clinics will be closed. Essential services in emergency rooms, maternity wards and intensive care will continue to be provided, as will cancer, dialysis and in-vitro fertilization treatments.

Doctors and medical students also plan to hold a mass demonstration this morning at the Reading parking lot in north Tel Aviv as part of stepping up their campaign. Dozens of physicians are expected to be bused in from around the country to participate in the protest. The demonstrators plan to light a bonfire at the protest under the slogan: "Physicians will not continue putting out fires."

"The doctors' call is loud and clear," said IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman. "They will not go on carrying the system on their backs, and they will not agree to continue giving treatments that are too little and too late to their patients."

Mass demo

Public hospitals will be staffed today only with doctors on duty and on call. The IMA announced over the weekend that the strike would also include medical residents so that they would be able to participate in the demonstration.

The doctors' union is planning further sanctions over the rest of the week. Tomorrow, day hospitalization centers will be closed in all hospitals in Tel Aviv and south. These include Ichilov, Assaf Harofeh, Wolfson, Barzilai, Kaplan, Soroka, Yoseftal, Hadassah Ein Karem, Hadassah Mount Scopus, Shaarei Zedek and Bikur Holim.

On Tuesday, day hospitalization centers will be closed in all hospitals north of Tel Aviv. These include Sheba, Beilinson, Schneider, Hasharon, Meir, Hillel Yaffe, Rambam, Bnei Zion, Carmel, Haemek, Poriya, Sieff and Western Galilee.

On Thursday, work will be disrupted in operating rooms and in day hospitalization centers because of a special convention being held on the dangers of radiation, which many cardiologists, urologists, anesthesiologists, gastroenterologists, orthopedists, pulmonologists, blood vessel surgeons and specialists in nuclear medicine will be attending. The IMA plans to use the convention to step up its campaign for additional compensation, sick pay and holidays for doctors regularly exposed to radiation. The IMA maintains that today, with the development of new medical technologies, more and more doctors are exposed to radiation.

Negotiations between the doctors and the treasury remain deadlocked, and talks have not resumed since last Tuesday when representatives of the two sides last met.