Hospital doctors to strike as talks break off

Public hospitals will operate on an emergency footing. Doctors at Clalit Health Services and Leumit Health Fund will also strike.

An attempt to prevent a doctors' strike has failed, after talks held today with Ministry of Finance representatives broke off.

Tomorrow, the Israel Medical Association will call a one-day warning strike at all public hospitals. On Thursday, the Israel Medical Association's management is scheduled to meet to decide whether to continue the strike next week, depending on developments in talks with the Ministry of Finance.

Public hospitals will operate on an emergency footing. Doctors at Clalit Health Services and Leumit Health Fund will also strike.

The announcement of the strike again exposes the tension between the Israel Medical Association and the Ministry of Health under Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman. The ministry said that it will publish "guidelines for hospitals and health funds, and set the limits of the strike to help the public."

The Israel Medical Association quickly responded, "It should be remembered that all instructions about the strike will be issued by the union's strike committee."

As "Globes" was the first to report, the Ministry of Finance proposed to the Israel Medical Association to refer the dispute to arbitration, a proposal originally made by the Israel Medical Association, which the ministry rejected. Now it's the Israel Medical Association that refuses to seek arbitration because the ministry insists that the arbitrators should only deal with doctors' salary terms, and not with manpower, the return of private medicine to government hospitals, and other issues.

The Ministry of Finance believes that a union should only deal with salary and work conditions, not "rescuing the public health system", which is supposedly within the sole authority of the government.

The gaps between the sides are still wide. The Ministry of Finance is prepared to grant doctors a 1% pay hike per year as part of a 5-8 year labor contract. It is also offering a special supplement of NIS 600-1,200 for specialists, doctors in the periphery, and doctors in professions where there is a shortage.

The Israel Medical Association is demanding a 50% increase in doctors' hourly wage, plus changes in employment terms which will amount to an estimated additional 50% pay hike.

Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman claimed today in an interview with "IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) that fewer patients died in hospitals during the previous doctors' strike, about a decade ago. Litzman said that a strike won't help the doctors, "No one can identify with a strike, especially when it human lives are involved."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on April 4, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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