Netanyahu Doctor Mediates Between Residents, Union

Medical interns' demands have been unclear, since they have been trying to avoid giving the semblance of a unified front in an effort to evade the cancellation of their resignations.

Dissenting medical interns who opposed the recent physicians' deal negotiated by the Israel Medical Association appear to have concluded that they will have to deal with IMA head Dr. Leonid Edelman to get their demands heard by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Haaretz has learned that the mediator in the talks between the interns and Edelman is the Netanyahus' family physician, Prof. Eliezer Rachmilewitz, who is also the head of the Hematology Department at the Wolfson Medical Center, Holon. Rachmilewitz also arranged the meeting between Edelman and Netanyahu when the head of the IMA was on hunger strike.

Over the past weeks the demands of the medical interns have been unclear, since they are trying to avoid giving the semblance of a unified front in an effort to evade the cancellation of their resignations, which would be imposed by the Labor Court - the interns resigned in protest over the deal last month. However, there is now a list of four main demands which their representatives would like to bring before Edelman.

The interns would like to see the agreement signed with the Treasury cut by 12 months to eight years, until July 2019; they want the cancellation of the need for specialist doctors to do duty shifts, something for which talks are underway; the creation of a monitoring committee, which would ensure the implementation of the deal; additional funding, beyond the numbers in the agreement between the IMA and the Treasury.

According to a Health Ministry source, "Since it is not possible to reopen the agreement that was signed, the only person capable of bringing these demands to the prime minister is the head of the Israel Medical Association, who represents all physicians, including the interns. It is important to make a meeting between the sides happen and try to resolve the obstacle that was created."

The current assessment, among those familiar with the details, is that if the additional funding is agreed upon, a few interns will still insist on resigning. However, most interns will seek to return to their positions in public medicine.

Meanwhile, senior physicians opposed to Edelman are putting together a union, headed by Prof. Eran Dolev, that will serve as an alternative to the IMA. Dozens of physicians have joined the new organization, called ARBEL, but it is believed that this group will not be able to offer an alternative to the IMA, and that Edelman will be the one who will have to lead the talks for a resolution of the interns' protest.

"In recent weeks I have met dozens of doctors every day, including senior physicians and interns," Dr. Edelman said. "We were happy that the interns opted to establish their own representation, and we were glad to cooperate with them in the talks. I consider the IMA a home for all physicians in Israel and our door is open before the representatives of the young doctors, in order to discuss all issues before us."