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Hundreds of medical interns rescind resignations, accepting gov’t compromise

Health Minister Horowitz has offered to accelerate plans to shorten shifts from 26 to 18 hours, set to meet head of protest group Wednesday

Medical interns demonstrate for better work conditions in Tel Aviv on October 9, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Medical interns demonstrate for better work conditions in Tel Aviv on October 9, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Hundreds of medical interns who had resigned en masse earlier this week to protest their working conditions rescinded their resignations Wednesday morning, accepting Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz’s compromise offer, which would accelerate plans to shorten their shifts

Under the new proposal announced by Horowitz, shifts will be shortened in March from 26 to 18 hours at 10 hospitals in outlying areas. Shifts will then be cut at numerous departments at two yet-to-be determined hospitals in the center of the country in November 2022.

Shifts will then be gradually cut at other departments and hospitals, with the aim of having all medical interns work 18-hour shifts by the end of 2025.

The medical interns rejected a previous government proposal to gradually shorten the shifts by 2026, but only at the 10 hospitals in the so-called periphery, with vague statements on the rest of the country following later on. The new proposal was a more detailed one, with clearer goals for the entire country.

“All Israeli governments chose to ignore this problem until this government,” Horowitz said during a press conference at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on Monday.

“We understand the interns and the pressure, we understand the distress,” Horowitz said. “I hope this will put an end to the crisis.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a press conference at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, October 18, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Horowitz was set to meet Wednesday afternoon with Dr. Rey Biton, the head of Mirsham, a group representing interns that has spearheaded the protests calling for shortened shifts. They will give joint press statements following the meeting.

Until 2000, interns worked 36-hour shifts and sometimes even more. That year, an agreement was signed to reduce the shifts to 26 hours with a two-hour break.

In 2012, following appeals to reduce the hours again, the government adjusted the irregular work permit to limit interns to two such shifts a week, and for them to not work more than 71.5 hours total in a week.

Despite the new regulations, most hospitals have not implemented them.

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