Ten years after a doctors strike lasting months hit hospitals, and two years after winning a 24% pay hike, Israel's doctors are again readying for a major strike. In July, their labor agreement will expire, and the Israel Medical Association is already laying the groundwork for the next battle.
Sources inform ''Globes'' that, this time, the doctors will not put salary demands at the forefront of the struggle, but they will still be a factor, at least behind the scenes. One key demand is the adoption of a mechanism that will allow a fixed rate of increase in the staff positions at hospitals in accordance with the increase in activity and the occupancy rate of the wards.
One possibility is that the doctors will demand adoption of the model used by nurses, in which a joint committee of nurses, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Finance monitor the occupancy rate at hospitals and set staffing positions accordingly.
Staff positions for doctors at hospitals are set by the number of beds, and Israel has one of the lowest proportion of beds to population in the OECD.
The Israel Medical Association will also demand financial incentives for specialists in fields where there is already a real shortage, such as prenatal physicians and anaesthetists.
Another demand, which has been raised before, is to attract students to fields in which there is a shortage, by means of loans, grants, and other measures.
Although the doctors' demands are liable to increase the cost to the treasury, the opening of the wage agreements is also an important opportunity for the government, especially the Ministry of Finance. Negotiations with the doctors will enable the Ministry of Finance to try to get what it failed to obtain in the arbitration in 2000, when the doctors received a large pay hike and gave nothing in exchange.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 27, 2010
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