Thursday, August 04, 2011

Over 1,000 residents quit jobs

Health system disruptions reach boiling point as striking residents carry out threat, turn in letters of resignation; call Treasury's offer 'empty'

Tomer Velmer
Published: 08.04.11, 15:06 / Israel News

Over 1,000 medical residents took their struggle to the next level Thursday, staging a mass resignation despite reports of a breakthrough in the doctors' wage negotiations.

"We love our profession but unfortunately we cannot continue doing it in the current conditions, and that is why we are submitting our resignation," Dr. Nadav Haim, who represents residents at the Sheba Medical Center, said during a press conference convened by the residents.

"Our hand was trembling when we signed the documents, but as doctors we have a public responsibility to ensure a better medical future for generations to come," he added. According to Haim, the framework of the agreement between the Treasury and the Medical Association is "empty of any substance, while the suggested salaries are degrading."

Haim argued that "the State of Israel has, for years, abandoned the public health system and in order to fix it, real change is required and not merely a trickery of numbers."

Attorney Tal Kerret, who will formally submit the letters of resignation on behalf of the residents, said that the letters will be turned in to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer first, with all other relevant hospitals following, by Thursday evening.

She further expressed hope that during the 30-day period before the letters take effect, "We'll be able to save the public health system."

Last week, the residents – whose organization was not recognized as a formal party in the negotiations – announced that they had entrusted hundreds of letters of resignation with a third party, saying that putting the letters into effect would be their last resort.

Assaf Harofeh Director-General Dr. Benny Davidson said the move aims to pressure the government: "I can’t imagine that this will come to an actual, collective resignation. Their careers and futures are at stake.

"We also have to be very carful and not allow this to become a reality – it will mean the total collapse of the health system. There's no health system without residents. Doctors can't perform residents' duties… as the manager of a hospital I can attest to the fact that we are standing on the edge of an abyss. This move is like a loaded gun – we can't accidently pull the trigger – it would spell disaster," Davidson warned.

'All options are viable'

Earlier, the residents' representatives called an emergency meeting meant, according to a resident at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Zerifin, to "update everyone on the talks. Over the past few days there has been an attempt to shut us out of the negotiations.

"The information we've received indicated that the Treasury has no intention to negotiate wages, which we find totally unacceptable. We have to decide about our next move and as far as we're concerned, all options are viable – even a mass resignation."

Meanwhile, Medical Association Chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman declared an end to the hunger strike he began on July 24th.

Doctors have criticized Eidelman, claiming that his agreements with the Treasury fail to truly meet their demands.

The protesting doctors alleged that Eidelman's compromise with the Treasury was reached from a position of weakness and that he has failed them.

The embattled Medical Association chair issued a letter to all striking doctors Thursday, warning them to avoid escalating the situation: "Don't make this into a 'Let me die with the Philistines' situation," he cautioned.

"I understand your need for personal expression and your feeling that the government fails to listen to you," Eidelman wrote. "You must remember that various protests which result in a strike are de facto illegal… and thus cannot be defended."

He further stressed that the negotiations "were handled by an experienced team of doctors, over the course of several months. We did not yield to any directive."

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