Doctors Resume Strike After Talks With Treasury Bog Down

Only urgent surgery will be performed on Monday and Tuesday at public and government hospitals.

The doctor strike in public hospitals resumes this morning, with only urgent surgery to be performed Monday and Tuesday, after negotiations between the Israel Medical Association and the Finance Ministry hit a dead end.

Doctors at all public and government hospitals will observe the strike, including hospitals owned by the Clalit health maintenance organization and three Jerusalem hospitals: Hadassah University Hospital, Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Bikur Holim.

Doctors' strike - April 2011
David Bachar

Outpatient clinics will be open as usual and will perform all catheterizations and nonsurgical procedures. Committees at each hospital will decide on exceptions to the urgent-surgery-only rule.

On Wednesday, psychiatric and geriatric hospitals will operate at reduced staff levels as on Saturdays.

The IMA has presented the treasury with several demands, first and foremost more positions for doctors, more hospital beds and better conditions for doctors in outlying areas or in specialties where physicians are lacking. Yesterday, the Health Ministry said in a statement, "We call on the doctors to return to the negotiating table and to halt their strike action, or alternatively, to enter into the arbitration process, a precedent for which was set in 2000."

The Finance Ministry has refused to discuss the doctors' demand that for-fee physician services be allowed in government hospitals. The ministry also said that if the doctors were to agree to raises for residents only, it would be a breakthrough in the talks.

The IMA decided doctors at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon will not strike, considering the security situation in the south. The Health Ministry is considering limiting the strike at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva for the same reason. Sources in the Health Ministry said that due to the lack of faith between the parties, the Finance Ministry might soon approach the Labor Court to order the doctors back to work.

Sources in the Health Ministry also said the ministry supports the treasury's position: to significantly raise salaries for residents, shorten shifts to no more than 24 hours from 26 hours, and limit on-call shifts for residents to no more than seven a month.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman had recently expressed support for private for-fee physician