Doctors' Dispute Returns to High Court After Talks Between IMA-treasury Fail

Israeli Medical Association officials concerned justices may stop entire negotiating process and send dispute to mediation or arbitration; young doctors continue submitting resignations.

The doctors' labor dispute goes back to the High Court of Justice today, after the Israeli Medical Association and the Finance Ministry failed Sunday to reach an agreement that would end the four-month-long sanctions.

Talks at the Treasury continued until late in the evening Sunday, but the sides were unable to come to terms on several substantial issues, including the timing of the doctors' wage increases and compensation for agreeing to punch a time clock.

doctors strike
Nir Kafri

The sides are expected to submit their briefs to the High Court Monday morning, with the hearing to start in the afternoon before three justices, headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch. During the previous hearing last Monday, Beinisch criticized the doctors, saying she was starting to sense that the strike was turning from a means into an end.

IMA officials are concerned that the justices may stop the entire negotiating process and send the dispute to mediation or arbitration.

Meanwhile, Health Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu Sunday ordered the government-owned hospitals to turn over any letters of resignation they had received from residents they employ so that he could assess the scope of the phenomenon. To date, 1,450 residents have submitted resignations to hospital managements. The resignations start to go into effect on September 4.

Haaretz has learned that Gamzu called in the letters on the orders of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who implied last week that hospital managements were encouraging their residents to continue submitting resignations as a way of pressuring the government.

The move means that any resident who might choose to return to work at a government hospital will now have to get the approval of the Health Ministry, rather than merely that of the hospital's management.

Young doctors continued to submit resignations Sunday, and not all were residents.

Dr. Yoav Domani, a specialist for six months in the psychiatric department of Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer submitted his resignation yesterday, telling Haaretz that it was a statement of conscience.

"I can't stand on the sidelines in this struggle," he said. "No one expects me to resign, but I felt that I had to take a more active part in this battle. I believe at this stage that we must strengthen the residents' ranks."