The doctors union and Finance Ministry reached an agreement Monday on a core demand by doctors that they be paid for days spent in quarantine after exposure to the coronavirus, rather than having it docked from their sick days.
The agreement was reportedly reached after intervention by Finance Minister Israel Katz, and came hours after the Israeli Medical Association declared a labor dispute and threatened to strike over a number of demands for improving conditions for its doctors and the healthcare system.
Under the terms of the deal, doctors will be paid for the two weeks spent in isolation, as required for anyone who is exposed to a virus carrier, on the basis of their average wage for the previous eight months, the Ynet website reported.
It was not clear how the deal signed Monday morning would impact the threat to begin strike action in two weeks time if the union’s demands are not met.
“The labor dispute was declared, among other reasons, in light of the lack of budgeting for required jobs 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.
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 during a coalition crisis in the unity government.