Doctors Sue Israeli Medical Association Over Botched Finance Ministry Deal

Residents claim deal violates their rights, leaves health care system in crisis.

Doctors at four hospitals filed suit against the Israeli Medical Association yesterday in an effort to overturn the collective wage agreement it signed with the Finance Ministry last month.

The suit, filed in the Tel Aviv Labor Court, also seeks a restraining order barring the government from registering the pact in the Industry Ministry's registry of collective agreements.

Doctors strike - August 24 2011  - Moti Milrod
Moti Milrod

Registration is the final step before the deal takes effect, which is due to happen soon: The first tranche of the raise it promises doctors is slated to be included in their September salaries. The court will hold a hearing on the request for a restraining order today.

The plaintiffs are the physicians' committees of four hospitals in the center of the country: Ichilov in Tel Aviv, Meir in Kfar Sava, Rambam in Haifa and Abarbanel in Bat Yam.

The committees argue that the agreement violates their rights, does not increase their base salary, fails to solve the public health system's problems and requires them to preserve industrial peace for an excessively long period, nine years. They also accuse the IMA of representing them "inappropriately."

"This is a bad agreement, obtained by giving disinformation to the community of physicians and while violating the IMA's obligation to represent the community of physicians who belong to it fairly and appropriately," attorneys Asher Sela and Sigal Pail wrote in the suit.

The IMA "neglected the public it represents, ignored its wishes and demands, and decided to dictate, by force, the working conditions that will prevail for many years."

The suit therefore asks the court to order the IMA to tell the treasury that negotiations are, in fact, not over, and that they must continue in order to correct "the severe distortions in the agreement."

The IMA responded that it represents "more than 186" different professional associations, and that the agreement strikes an appropriate balance among their various conflicting interests and needs.

The deal, according to the IMA, provides "the broadest possible base of solutions, from a comprehensive outlook," to the health system's needs.

"We regret that there is a group of physicians that feels unrepresented despite the fact that their representatives are members of the IMA's central committee and were kept informed throughout of the details of the negotiations," the IMA added.

Meanwhile, residents are continuing to submit letters of resignation to hospitals throughout the country.

Thus far, 739 resignations have been submitted, including those of 20 specialists who are supporting the residents' battle against the new agreement.

The resignations are due to take effect on October 4, after the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The Health Ministry warned yesterday that this will lead to a shortage of doctors at 10 different hospitals, some of which will be forced to adopt the reduced work schedule normally used only on Shabbat and holidays.

The hospitals in question are Ichilov, Meir, Rambam, Sheba in Tel Hashomer, Beilinson in Petah Tikva, Schneider children's hospital in Petah Tikva, Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem, Assaf Harofeh in Tzrifin, Bnei Zion in Haifa and Wolfson in Holon.

This is the second time the residents have resigned en masse - the National Labor Court overturned their initial resignations last week on the grounds that they constituted illegal collective action.

"The solution lies not in the legal sphere, but in a solution involving all the relevant government ministries," the Health Ministry said in a statement, adding that it will continue its dialogue with the residents and specialists in an effort to avert the crisis.