Doctors Vow to Resume Strike on Monday After Standstill in Talks

Among the doctors' demands are to provide more doctors in outlying areas and a 50 percent increase in the physicians' hourly wage.

The Israel Medical Association announced on Thursday that this week's doctors' work stoppage will resume next week, with affected hospitals going on strike Monday and Tuesday.

In addition to government hospitals, the labor sanctions will affect the Clalit health maintenance organization's hospitals as well as the two Hadassah hospitals and Shaare Zedek and Bikur Holim in Jerusalem.

On Monday and Tuesday, surgeons at the affected hospitals will only perform operations for the removal of malignant tumors and other urgent surgeries. On Wednesday, the hospitals will operate at reduced "Shabbat" capacity and defer all non-urgent surgeries and treatments, including visits to out-patient hospital clinics.

The physicians' strike committee decided informational meetings for doctors will also be held at hospitals on Sunday to explain the state of negotiations with the Finance Ministry.

On Thursday, negotiations reached an impasse and a meeting between the two sides that had been scheduled was canceled.

Another bargaining session scheduled for Friday is also on shaky footing as are three meetings between the parties set for next week.

The Finance Ministry issued a statement calling on physicians to return to the table.

"We call on the doctors' leadership to return to the negotiations and prevent unnecessary suffering to thousands of citizens and focus the discussion on narrowing the salary gaps between young physicians and those with many years of service," the statement read.

A Finance Ministry source said if the doctors agree to discuss a substantial wage increase limited to medical residents, a breakthrough in the talks is possible.

The two sides traded accusations on Thursday over the issue of private paid medical services at government hospitals, which the doctors have been advocating.

"The debate ... is media spin to deflect the discussion from the real problems of the collapsing public health system," said the medical association's chairman, Leonid Eidelman. Allowing pay-for services at public hospitals has the support of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and as well as the director general of his ministry, Roni Gamzu.

The Finance Ministry has said it would not discuss the matter, however, and the medical association has confirmed that the issue is not a top priority in the talks.

Among the doctors' demands are that staffing levels be adjusted to provide more doctors in outlying areas and in medical specialties in which there are staff shortages. They are also asking for a 50 percent increase in the physicians' hourly wage.

In a show of support for the doctors, 250 medical students are expected to run in today's Tel Aviv Marathon, where they plan to wear jerseys with the slogan "Save Public Medicine in Israel."