Doctors' Walkout Ends - For Now

A two-day “warning strike” by Israeli doctors has ended, but the Israel Medical Association says it may resume.

Chana Ya'ar , | updated: 12:32 PM

Hospital (illustrative)
Hospital (illustrative)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A two-day “warning strike” by the country's doctors ended Thursday morning, but not without first creating medical havoc for thousands of patients.

Israeli state-run hospitals resumed normal operations Thursday morning at 7:00 a.m. after running on skeleton crews and a Sabbath schedule on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thousands of scheduled operations were postponed, and numerous treatments were put off. Negotiations between the physicians' union and the Finance Ministry have broken down.

A mental health client in crisis and his direct care worker were turned away from the Be'er Sheva Mental Health Center Wednesday night by an administrator who said bluntly, “There's a doctor's strike on – and now everyone decides they need to come in? There's no room and we cannot accept you.”

The pair, who came from a southern town in the periphery and had traveled more than an hour by bus to reach the center, had no recourse. “My client was in crisis when we started, which is why we went. Now I have no idea how or even if we'll be able to convince him to go back – and he really needs to,” the direct care worker told Israel National News. He asked not to be identified because he was not authorized by his care agency to speak with media.

Doctors are demanding a 50 percent wage hike across the board – at present the average doctor makes NIS 42 per hour – but the ministry is refusing to agree. The union also demands an increase in salaries for residents, as well as incentives for doctors working in the periphery and in understaffed specialties.

In addition, doctors are asking for state funding for a wider range of medical services. Talks, which are being brokered by Health Ministry Director-General Dr. Roni Gamzu and the head of the ministry's medical administration, Dr. Chezi Levy, are expected to continue Thursday and into next week.

Ministry officials reportedly have said they would consider wage hikes for residents - smaller than demanded - and reducing and shortening their shifts. However, they want to include a demand that doctors agree not to strike for the next 10 years.