By Jonathan Benedek/TPS
The Ministries of Health and Finance continue to find themselves at odds with the Israel Medical Association as hospitals went on strike in Israel on Thursday morning, insisting that more resources be allocated to the public health system.
Although employees at all government hospitals and psychiatric facilities will be on strike, hospitals will still run at limited capacity and continue emergency medical treatment. Nevertheless, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said that the strike itself would not at all contribute towards reaching a solution.
“This strike is unnecessary and without any real reason,” Litzman told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “It has no real goal and will bring little benefit to public health and to the health system.”
The health minister also dismissed complaints from the doctors about a new clause that had been added to the Economic Arrangements Law that would prevent senior doctors from practicing private medicine.
“The main concern of the doctors regarding the restriction of department managers from engaging in private practice does not exist since that legislative clause was removed from the draft of the Arrangements Law,” charged Litzman.
Even without the change to the Economic Arrangements Law, the doctors are still insisting that the 2017-2018 budget proposed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon include an additional several hundred million dollars (NIS 1-2 billion) to be spent towards extra hospital beds, doctors, and manpower.
Finance Ministry officials and representatives of the union for doctors appeared to be on the verge of reaching an agreement on terms at a certain point during negotiations last night. However, Yossi Cohen, director of the Finance Ministry’s salary division, sent an ambiguously worded letter to the doctors that did not include an explicit commitment to agree to the terms in writing, which quelled hopes for an agreement.
A doctor working at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem spoke with TPS on condition of anonymity about her dissatisfaction with the current allocations in the public health system and with doctors’ salaries in particular.
“Are doctors satisfied with the current numbers? In a word, no,” she told TPS. “We must examine the basic salary as a measure of comparison and not doctors’ combined salaries that include other jobs and being on call. When doing so, the average gross salary of a doctor in Israel drops to only NIS 16,360 (4,292 USD).”
“Doctors believe that a reasonable basic gross salary for a doctor given his education, training, and earning capacity outside the public system should be NIS 30,000 to NIS 40,000 a month before any on-call work, shift work, or any other forms of work,” the doctor explained.
Health Minister Litzman said that his ministry has been engaged in efforts to improve and increase the amount of financial resources invested in the public health system as well as in its doctors in particular.
“The Ministry of Health has intensive contacts with the Ministry of Finance to strengthen the public health system with additional beds, manpower, and other resources,” Litzman told TPS. “This is in correlation with the many other moves we made for the benefit of the patients, doctors, and healthcare system.”
Michael Zeff contributed to this report.TPS / Tazpit News Agency