Doctors union threatens strike over funding dispute with Finance Ministry
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Doctors union threatens strike over funding dispute with Finance Ministry

Israeli Medical Association announces labor dispute, says its 28,000 members will stop working if demands aren’t met within 14 days

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Workers in the coronavirus ward of Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, July 27, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative: Workers in the coronavirus ward of Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, July 27, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The country’s largest doctors union announced it was opening a labor dispute Monday, threatening a strike by all of its members if demands for more funding for the healthcare system are not met within two weeks.

“The labor dispute was declared, among other reasons, in light of the lack of budgeting for required jobs in order to meet the unusual workload during the coronavirus period,” the Israeli Medical Association said a statement Sunday.

The IMA also cited the intention to fire “in lack of good faith” doctors from health corporations who are employed to work in hospitals; partial wage payments to some doctors during the pandemic; sick days taken from doctors who were forced into quarantine due to contact with virus patients; and the lack of indemnity for doctors who had to pay from their own pockets to make arrangements for childcare during lockdown.

A further grievance is that the Finance Ministry has required the hospitals to fund the hiring of some of the new doctors to combat the pandemic, which the IMA said will “further deepen the deficits and require firing workers.”

If the Finance Ministry does not meet its demands, then all of the 28,000 members of IMA will go on strike, the statement said.

Prof Zion Hagay, chairman of the Israeli Medical Association. (Twitter)

Israeli Medical Association Chair Zion Hagay urged Finance Minister Israel Katz and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to find a solution.

“The Medical Association behaved in a noble manner throughout the crisis with full mobilization from the first moment, but if someone thinks that we will stand aside as doctors and the wider public are harmed — we will have to correct his mistake,” Hagay said in the statement.

Recent Health Ministry figures have shown that coronavirus wards at four of Israel’s largest hospitals are full and most hospitals are experiencing general overload, with two major Jerusalem medical centers and the largest hospitals in Tel Aviv and nearby Ramat Gan operating near or above full capacity.

The country is dealing with a resurgence of coronavirus infections that began after a lockdown imposed earlier in the year to curb the virus was gradually lifted. Infection rates have risen to between 1,000-2,000 new cases a day. Over 600 people have died of the coronavirus in Israel since the outbreak began.

The labor dispute comes as Israel struggles to pass its national budget amid a coalition crisis in the unity government.

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