Medical Association announces 24-hour general strike Tuesday in healthcare system

Hospitals and clinics in Jerusalem will not be affected, and emergency and critical care services will function as scheduled; Health Ministry weighs asking for injunction

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Doctors demonstrate against the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv on July 18, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Doctors demonstrate against the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv on July 18, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Israeli Medical Association announced a one-day general strike in the healthcare system on Tuesday in response to the Knesset’s passage of the government’s first judicial overhaul law on Monday. During the strike, the healthcare system will operate on a limited Sabbath and holiday schedule.

However, emergency rooms of general and psychiatric hospitals will be excluded and operate as usual, as will community clinics in Jerusalem and its surroundings, “due to the large number of people in the area and the complex situation there.”

Patients arriving at any emergency department around the country will be seen by a doctor who will evaluate whether further treatment is needed — either in that hospital or elsewhere.

“We are doing everything possible so that the patients will not be negatively impacted by the steps we have been forced to take. We will operate on a Sabbath and holiday schedule, but physician committees and heads of departments will ensure sufficient staffing with doctors on rotation and call,” said an IMA statement.

All other physicians and trainees will not show up to work.

IMA chair Prof. Zion Hagay branded the law, which removes courts’ ability to review politicians’ decisions based on their “reasonableness,” as “one-sided.”

“Today is a difficult day for the State of Israel and the Israeli nation,” Hagay said following the law’s passage.

Hagay stated that he doubts that the societal rifts caused by the government pushing through the law can be healed.

“The IMA has repeatedly warned that the consequences of the extreme version of the law canceling the ‘reasonableness’ test will have severe repercussions on the healthcare system, the patients and the doctors. Our hopes for a more moderate version were dashed,” Hagay said.

Deeply disappointed by the government’s failure to reach a compromise, Hagay said that the IMA had no option other than to call a strike. Hagay announced at a Jerusalem rally on Sunday, attended by several thousand physicians and healthcare workers, that the IMA had already declared a labor dispute that would position it to call a strike should the law pass. He also said that the professional organization would appeal to the Supreme Court.

Several thousand doctors pack into Jerusalem’s International Convention Center for a Israel Medical Association-organized rally protesting the government’s judicial overhaul plans. July 23, 2023. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)

Due to the strike’s short notice, patients with scheduled appointments for hospital procedures and surgeries will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Outpatient clinics will be closed.

The following medical services will not be affected by the strike: Dialysis, IVF treatments, ultrasound scans for pregnant women, urgent care, maternity wards, neonatal departments, oncological treatments, surgeries, and some psychiatric services.

All community health fund clinics, except those in Jerusalem, will be closed.

Upon learning of the impending strike late Monday, Health Minister Moshe Arbel and Health Ministry general director Moshe Bar Siman Tov consulted with Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky and representatives of the State Attorney’s Office.

According to Arbel’s spokesperson, the minister instructed the attorneys to investigate the possibility of applying for an injunction in the labor court to prevent “this last-minute wild strike that will unjustly hurt thousands of patients.”

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