Doctors, State Just NIS 125m Away From Deal to End Strike

Talks continued late into the night Thursday in a bid to formulate an agreement that will end 15 weeks of labor sanctions.

The doctors and Finance Ministry are discussing an eight-year agreement that will overhaul the public health system. Talks continued late into the night Thursday in a bid to formulate an agreement that will end 15 weeks of labor sanctions.

Haaretz learned that the two sides have reached understandings to beef up medical staff positions, increase work hours in public hospitals, and reduce the number of shifts for interns. At this stage, the difference between the sum the doctors are demanding and the sum the treasury is proposing is about NIS 125 million a year.

doctors - Ofer Vaknin - July 7 2011
Ofer Vaknin

National Labor Court President Nili Arad, in whose chambers the sides are negotiating, has instructed the parties not to discuss the talks in the media.

Arad told the sides to step up their talks in order to reach an agreement by next Tuesday. If a settlement is not reached by then, the court will reconsider a back-to-work request by the state, she said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refrained from stepping in to help resolve the crisis, despite repeated calls from both the health system and politicians to do so.

A source from the negotiations said that if Netanyahu stepped in, he could soon resolve the issues under dispute and bring an end to the crisis.

Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman has several times urged Netanyahu to step in. "We repeat our call to the prime minister to display leadership, step into the dispute and bring forth a significant health reform to the public," he said yesterday.

"It is Netanyahu's duty to intervene in the crisis," MK Dr. Rachel Adatto (Kadima ) said yesterday. "The talks are being held up by issues that are partly irrelevant, and the prime minister can solve it quickly."

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman's aides commented that "the deputy minister is hoping for a swift solution to the negotiations for the good of the doctors and the patients."

Today, at Arad's request both parties will continue the talks in the Labor Court until the beginning of the Sabbath. The talks are being held in the judge's closed chamber inside the courthouse, and Arad receives an update of their progress every few hours.

Yesterday the hospitals operated as usual. Last week, in response to the judge's request, the doctors called off their strike and resumed partial labor sanctions.