TEL AVIV (Apr. 27)
Hope faded for a speedy end to the three-month old strike by publicly employed doctors after the doctors announced yesterday that they were breaking off talks with the Finance Ministry.
They termed “insulting” a speech by Finance Minister Yoram Aridor in the Knesset Monday accusing the doctors of trying “to enrich themselves at the expense of their patients’ health.” The doctors retorted that their only demand was a decent salary and decent working conditions which the government was denying them.
They rejected Aridor’s charge that their strike was endangering public health, pointing out that hospitals were still functioning, though on a reduced weekend schedule and that alternative medical care was available at the clinics of Histadrut’s Kupat Holim (sick-fund) where the Medical Association was supplying service.
Kupat Holim doctors are also striking, although they treat patients privately for a fee, away from the clinics. That situation resulted in the anomaly of a senior Histadrut official — Dr. Haim Doron, head of Kupat Holim–demanding that Health Minister Eliezer Shostak order the Histadrut doctors back to work. Histadrut normally has opposed back-to-work orders to any trade unionists.
Shostak, whose repeated orders to striking government doctors to return to their jobs were ignored, refused to issue the same orders to Histadrut doctors. Meanwhile, the Labor Council in Beersheba has threatened to call a general strike in that city unless the Kupat Holim clinics there restore normal service.