High Court Gives Medical Residents Two Weeks to Resolve Conflict With Treasury

Court appoints two mediators to shepherd negotiations, which had come to a standstill.

Talks between the medical residents and the Finance Ministry are expected to resume this morning, mediated by Prof. Moti Mironi, president of the Chamber of Israeli Mediators, and retired Supreme Court justice Itzhak Zamir.

The two were appointed by the High Court of Justice on Sunday to shepherd the negotiations, which had come to a standstill.

Tuesday's meeting has been dubbed "preliminary" and will take place in the offices of the Israel Medical Association.

The High Court called for the dialogue to take two weeks, and asked the sides to give an interim report next week.

The residents say they are angered by the agreement that the IMA signed on their behalf in August, which included sharp wage increases for doctors in the periphery and in short-staffed specialties - but over nine years. The residents want the reforms instituted sooner.

Most of the residents who had resigned earlier and walked off the job last week returned to work to wait out the new round of talks. The High Court of Justice ruled that any resident that didn't return is liable to be charged with contempt of court, since the National Labor Court had ruled twice that the mass resignations were illegal.

The resignations of over 200 specialists, including senior staffers and department heads of major hospitals, who resigned in support of the residents, are due to go into effect in about three weeks.

Despite the relative quiet Monday, protest actions continued. Doctors at Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed held a meeting in support of the residents, while the head of the doctors union at Haifa's Carmel Medical Center wrote to the IMA, calling for the agreement to be shortened, as the residents demand.

Carmel Medical Center is furious that Haifa was not deemed "periphery" under the agreement. Doctors there say this puts the hospital at risk of losing physicians, who will move to more peripheral hospitals where they will be paid more.

The government survived a no-confidence motion filed by Kadima over the crisis in the public health system on Monday. MK Rachel Adatto, who submitted the motion and is herself a physician, criticized the performance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who doubles as Health Minister on paper, during the nine months the crisis has been playing out.

"This government is acting on an ideology of destroying the public health system. Under these circumstances, we'd be better off importing a prime minister from India," she said, referring to a remark attributed to Netanyahu, who allegedly said that if the medical residents insisted on resigning, Israel could import doctors from India.