Doctors' Protests Continue as Talks Fail to Narrow Gaps

Doctors expected to reach Jerusalem by Friday to hand prime minister petition signed by tens of thousands of people urging him to save Israel's public health system.

Hundreds of doctors took part in various demonstrations and protest marches yesterday to back up their demand for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in their labor dispute with the Finance Ministry.

Another round of talks between the Israel Medical Association and the treasury failed to narrow the gaps between their positions on doctors' wages and work conditions. Negotiators are scheduled to meet again at midday today.

Doctors strike.
Hagai Frid

"There was no new development in the talks, only the hedging and indecisiveness that characterize this government," a source who took part in the meeting said.

The IMA's strike committee, headed by IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman, continued its protest march to Jerusalem yesterday. Doctors from Beit Lowenstein, Shalvata, Rebecca Sieff, Hasharon, Beilinson and other hospitals joined the march.

Senior IMA officials will stay overnight in Moshav Shoresh and are expected to reach Jerusalem by Friday. They will then hand the prime minister a petition signed by tens of thousands of people urging him to save Israel's public health system.

On Sunday, the IMA plans a large demonstration in the Knesset Rose Garden, under the slogan "where have you disappeared to, Netanyahu?" At it, thousands of doctors will call on the prime minister to intervene in the crisis.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman yesterday asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to investigate whether a statement made on Israel Radio constituted incitement to violence. The speaker suggested cutting off Litzman's tongue because of the doctors' protest.

In the Knesset, Litzman responded to motions for the agenda on the doctors' protests that opposition factions had submitted by urging the IMA and the treasury to talk until they reached an agreement. They should talk "with no media, no leaks and no limelight to end the strike that is hurting patients and their families," he said.

Litzman blasted the IMA for bowing to pressure by medical residents and reopening issues on which a agreement draft had already been reached.

But he said there was no need for Netanyahu's intervention. "I brief the prime minister twice a day," he said. "He is up to date and relies on the parties to reach agreements."

The doctors will continue to protest today, holding demonstrations all over the the country. On Sunday, hospitals nationwide will launch a general strike, meanwhile they will operate with a skeletal staff.

Today, doctors from the Western Galilee and Hillel Yaffeh hospitals will hold protest marches in Nahariya and Hadera, respectively, while those from Wolfson and Abarbanel hospitals will march in Bat Yam.