|Prime minister Netanyahu’s office issued a statement offering some doctors an increase in pay [REUTERS]|
Hundreds of Israeli doctors did not show up for work after quitting their jobs over a salary dispute, a health ministry official said, and hospitals warned they were on the verge of collapse.
Hospitals cancelled non-urgent procedures on Monday, some patients were turned away while others waited hours for treatment.
“We won’t last more than a day or two like this,” Motti Freid a doctor at Tel Aviv Medical Centre told Israeli television.
“Soon we will be unable to treat thousands of people, including those in danger,” Pinny Halperin, head of the
emergency unit at Tel Aviv Medical Centre told Israel’s Channel One news.
A health ministry spokeswoman said 700 medical residents – more than a quarter of Israel’s resident doctors -handed their notice in over a month ago.
A total of 340 of them did not report for hospital duty on Monday and the rest were expected to follow suit this week.
Leaders of the months-old protest at a Tel Aviv news conference urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also has the health portfolio, to “demonstrate leadership” and urgently find a way to improve their working conditions.
Talks between the residents and the Treasury collapsed on Sunday when medics walked out, complaining the authorities were not taking their demands seriously, media reports said.
Backed against a wall
The resignations had been due to go into effect on September 4 but have been repeatedly stalled by the intervention of Israel’s labour court. The state prosecutor’s office on Monday sought another court injunction.
The residents want significant salary increases and changes to their working hours.
“The Treasury has backed the residents up against a wall,” Dr Doron Norman, who works at Rambam medical centre in Haifa, said speaking on army radio.
“It seems to me that people don’t understand the depth of the problem or the depth of the crisis,” he said, warning the confrontation could mean patients would be left to die.
Netanyahu in a statement promised to “continue efforts aimed at improving the working conditions of residents,” and asked their leaders to “pursue negotiations”.
The prime minister’s office issued a statement offering some doctors an increase in pay. The doctors said they had not yet received an official offer from Netanyahu but that they would study it once they did.
The doctors’ resignation is another sign of social unrest in Israel. Mass protests held under a banner of “social justice” rocked the Jewish state through the summer with hundreds of thousands demanding lower living costs and economic reform.