Physicians at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center are expected to begin an open-ended strike Tuesday, after the Jerusalem Labor Court refused management’s request for a temporary injunction. Judge Kamel Abou Kaoud had delayed the strike until Tuesday so that the hospital and the patients could prepare for it. The doctors are striking over management’s decision not to honor a collective bargaining agreement and its failure to hire medical residents.
The judge said Hadassah Medical Center’s two hospitals, Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem and Hadassah University Hospital, Mount Scopus would operate on a weekend footing, offering only emergency care and vital services. The court ordered labor and management to hold intensive negotiations and to report on their progress Thursday.
Most services in both hospitals will not be available during the strike. Exceptions include inpatient departments, emergency rooms, intensive care, neonatal intensive care, urgent surgery, oncology and dialysis.
The chairman of the Israel Medical Association, Prof. Zion Hagai, said the judge was persuaded that all conciliatory efforts had been exhausted and that strike was justified by management’s unilateral actions. Management “pushed the doctors into a strike to protect the residents,” Hagai said, adding that the IMA hoped the residents would be hired immediately.
In a statement, Hadassah Medical Center asked the physicians to demonstrate responsibility for the welfare of their patients and avoid a damaging strike. “We must reach mutual agreement on the wages of the senior academic doctors through negotiations,” Hadassah said.
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At the heart of the conflict is disagreement over the way the head of the Hadassah Medical Center, Prof. Zeev Rotstein, wants to implement the final stage of the seven-year rehabilitation program signed with the government in 2014.
The main sticking point is management’s decision to stop honoring a collective bargaining agreement signed in the 1980s and not to hire medical residents who were scheduled to begin rotations at the start of the month.
Rotstein said the strike was called without following the proper protocol, and that in addition to the damage to patients, it will cost about $1 million a day in loss of revenues.
“Hadassah Hospital is facing a critical question: Is it capable of being an independent hospital or not,” Rotstein told Haaretz.
He claims that the IMA’s focus on hiring residents presents a partial picture, which is a cover-up for the real reason for the strike: the administration’s decision to stop honoring the collective agreement. “The reason for the strike is actually those academic doctors, with academic appointments at the Hebrew University, who receive a basic salary that is 40 percent higher than any similar doctor in another hospital.
“Hadassah is unable to finance it, and it causes a deficit of 45 million shekels ($12.3 million) a year.” He said that the need to tighten their belt regarding expenditures on manpower doesn’t only involve discontinuing the hiring of residents, but of hiring doctors in general, as well as reducing the salary costs of working doctors.
“We tried to reach a compromise with the committee but the IMA is defending the agreement. “I as the Hadassah administrator have an ethical problem requesting public money in order to pay for the collective agreement with the doctors. Nor do I see the government granting a budget for inflated salaries for doctors.”