Doctors' strike cripples Israeli medical system

13:21, June 21, 2011      

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The Israel Medical Association ( IMA) announced on Monday that its members will begin an open-ended general strike over doctor's working conditions, after intensive overnight talks between doctors' unions representatives, Health Ministry, and Finance Ministry officials came to naught.

In the negotiations, which went on into the small hours of the morning, ministry officials offered an additional 450 positions for specialists, in order to ease the entry into the field for beginning physicians. Union representatives, however, dismissed the offer at the outset, saying "It was just not enough," according to Israel Army radio.

Among the demands, the IMA is calling for an additional 100 more intensive care beds, and 500 internal medicine beds.

Since early April, the IMA has imposed varying sanctions over what it said were low wages, unequal medical care in rural areas, and over-long hours for medical residents.

The strike is affecting Clalit and Leumi Health Services hospitals and clinics. The striking groups are threatening a tiered series of increasingly severe sanctions, including a cancellation of all elective surgery, except for oncology and emergency procedures on Tuesday, and then a shutdown of hospital outpatient clinics, diagnostic clinics, and day hospitals in general, psychiatric and geriatric hospitals.

The strike will also include the Health Ministry's regional health and infant welfare centers.

"So far our sanctions have not been harsh, so they were hardly felt by the public," said Dr. Efraim Zohav, who chairs the doctors ' committee at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

"I believe the situation will change from now on," Zohav said, according to the Ynet news site.

Zohav warned that conditions at hospitals and clinics throughout the country would worsen significantly, if the strikers demands aren't met, noting that "This situation, which has been going on for quite a while, really frustrates me."

"But eventually," he added, "we want to give the public good service, and if we give up now - it's like we haven't done a thing. "

Source: Xinhua
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