'Shameless Doctors Want Wages Doubled'

Treasury outraged at Israel Medical Association demands.

The Finance Ministry is accusing the Israel Medical Association of demanding 100% raises for doctors.

"Doctors are demanding raises of 50% in their base salaries, plus other improvements in their fringe benefits worth 50%, so the overall increase they are demanding is 100%," a Finance Ministry source said yesterday. "They have no shame."

The treasury and the IMA held their latest negotiating session on Sunday, when Dr. Leonid Eidelman, president of the IMA, and the treasury's deputy wages director, Yossi Cohen, met together with representatives of the Health Ministry, the Clalit health maintenance organization and the Hadassah Medical Organization.

The treasury estimates the cost of the doctors' demands at NIS 4 billion a year. The cost of the previous agreement signed with the IMA two and a half years ago - which was forced on the treasury in binding arbitration - was only NIS 257 million a year, the source said.

Laundry list

The IMA's list of 20 demands includes higher pay for specialists doing night duty; improved conditions for doctors who agree to move with their families to the periphery; higher salaries for doctors already working in the periphery; special grants for physicians in specialties with a shortage of doctors, such as pediatric intensive care; increasing the number of training days; higher pension contributions; and payments for day care.

The treasury says the average wage for doctors in the public sector is NIS 23,500 gross a month, while residents make NIS 16,000-18,000. Department heads and other administrators make an average of NIS 28,000-30,000 a month, according to the treasury.

The IMA said it has despaired of the treasury's handling of the negotiations. "As soon as the the arbitration ended, we warned that many of the systemic problems remained without a solution, and that the system is on the brink of collapse, but they didn't listen to our cries," an IMA statement said.

"We have the impression the Finance Ministry does not want, or is unable, to implement the steps [needed] to rehabilitate the health system," it continued. "In the framework of the negotiations, the treasury accepted our position that there is a shortage of doctors and a severe and worsening crisis in the periphery."

The IMA said its salary demands were no more than adequate to keep up with inflation, and that in practice, the base wage for doctors averages NIS 42 per hour, less than what a cleaning woman earns in north Tel Aviv.

The treasury is also demanding that doctors clock in and out every day, which the IMA opposes.

But the IMA rejected the Finance Ministry's claim that it is seeking another round of arbitration.