Medical Students and Doctors Walk off Jobs in Hospitals

This morning, hundreds of medical students and physicians stayed home from work, making good on their threats to resign over low wages.

Last week, the Israel Medical Association met with representatives of medical students as well as officials in the Finance and Interior Ministries over wages in order to prevent a mass-resignation that would leave most of the country’s northern and central regions without a functional hospital.  Those talks failed, even after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Finance Ministry to give all doctors raises.

Over the last few months, the entire medical field has been in arms over wages, with many doctors resigning in waves in late August and early September.  At the end of August, close to 1,000 doctors and students were absent from work and submitted letters of resignation that were to take effect last week.

This morning, Rambam Medical Center in Haifa reported that 74 residents did not come to work and 120 doctors submitted official letters of resignation.  Other hospitals suffering shortages include Sourasky Medical Center which reported 120 residents absent, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba and Assaf HaRofeh Hospital in Ramle, amongst several others.  A total of 340 residents and doctors were reported absent from work.

Following the walkouts and mass resignations, medical students held a press conference in which they justified their actions, laying blame on the government for low wages.  Representatives of the students also accused the state of “abusing the Hippocratic oath and depriving doctor of their rights”.

Last night, additional negotiations were held between attorneys representing medical students and doctors and the Ministry of Finance.  Doctors and students are demanding a NIS 7,000 per month salary and obtaining the right to not work multiple shifts.  The multiple shift requirement has been a part of medical training since the State’s inception.  Residents have also warned that they will leave the medical sector if their demands are not met and will instead enter the biotechnology field.

Reactions in the government have mostly been requests for the doctors to return to work and give negotiations a second chance, although officials in the Finance Ministry accused residents of simple greed.