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Government okays NIS 55 million in bonuses for frontline medical staff

Grant to express thanks for COVID battle is equal to monthly amount of state funds striking public hospitals claim government promised them without delivering

Medical staff in the coronavirus ward of the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, on July 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Medical staff in the coronavirus ward of the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, on July 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The cabinet on Wednesday voted to allocate NIS 55 million ($17.15 million) to doctors and medical staff in recognition of their efforts in the fight against the coronavirus, amid complaints by some hospitals of a lack of government support.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the grants an “expression of gratitude” to medical teams “doing holy work,” in a statement from his office announcing the cabinet vote.

“From the doctors and nurses to the various HMO staffs, they all worked together around the clock to safeguard the health of the citizens of Israel. On behalf of the Government of Israel and the citizens of Israel, I would like to express our appreciation and gratitude to the country’s medical staff. We will continue to fight the coronavirus, and together we will win,” he said.

Doctors and health officials involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients will each receive a NIS 1,000 ($312) gift card that will be eligible at cultural and recreational businesses throughout the country, the PMO said.

The initiative, which was proposed by Bennett along with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, will be funded by the Economy Ministry and will also help many struggling businesses that were forced to close repeatedly since the start of the pandemic.

The grant announcement came hours after the heads of the country’s seven so-called public hospitals announced Wednesday that surgeries will be suspended on Thursday between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., stepping up its labor action against the government and calls for additional state funding.

Doctors and nurses strike outside the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, on August 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital and both hospitals in the Hadassah system, Bnei Brak’s Mayanei Yeshua, Netanya’s Laniado, and Nazareth’s St. Vincent de Paul, Holy Family Hospital and Nazareth Hospital began striking last month, saying they would only perform life-saving procedures and would refuse to admit new patients from the Magen David Adom emergency service.

Unlike Israel’s network of government-owned hospitals, the public hospitals are owned and administered by non-governmental organizations, though they rely mostly on state funds to operate.

In a statement last week, the directors of the hospitals acknowledged that representatives from the Health Ministry and Finance Ministry had attempted to reach out to them, but said that “we cannot pay our suppliers and workers with sympathy.”

They called on Health Minister Horowitz and Finance Minister Liberman to “resolve the crisis immediately.”

The hospital administrators claim that the NIS 300 million ($93 million) promised by the state to public hospitals has not yet been transferred. Additionally, a clause in their agreement with the Finance Ministry promising an additional NIS 55 million ($17 million) each month that the pandemic continues has also not been kept since July, they claim.

In June, the same hospitals boycotted a government event honoring the health system for COVID-fighting efforts, accusing the state of financially abandoning them.

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