Dozens of resident physicians from Haemek Hospital in Afula declared a strike of several hours on Thursday, in protest against the postponement of the shortening of on-call times at hospitals in the periphery.
Due to the strike, inpatient and children’s triage doctors are working only on emergencies, and the residents have announced that the strike will continue until just after midnight between Thursday and Friday.
The shortening of on-call times was scheduled to go into effect on April 1 at 10 periphery hospitals. They were supposed to be shortened from 26 hours to 16 hours plus another two hours of handing off to the next shift. The residents’ union demanded that the change go into effect by Wednesday, and went on strike when their demands were not met.
Haemek Hospital, which is owned by Clalit Healthcare Services, is one of the hospitals where the on-call periods were to be shortened. A representative of the residents there said it is not being implemented “due to tricks by the Finance Ministry, Clalit Healthcare Services and the Israeli Medical Association.”
The residents’ organization said, “We are collapsing with 26-hour shifts. Anyone who thinks they can keep treating us this way and throwing us under the bus is wrong. We demand that the state abide by its commitments and agreements. And if that doesn’t happen, we won’t hesitate to expand our moves.”
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The struggle to shorten the residents’ on-call shifts has been going on for over a decade. The 2011 physicians’ employment contract included a pilot for shortening the shifts, but nothing changed in practice. During the COVID crisis shifts were shortened due to work limitations at the COVID wards, but once they were restored to their former full lengths, alongside the start of Nitzan Horowitz’s term as health minister, the doctors’ struggle resumed.
But the previous plan, promoted by Horowitz and Economy Minister Orna Barbivai, became mired in a dispute between government ministries, and between influential elements in the healthcare system, including the Medical Association and Clalit Healthcare Services.