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Doctors on Hunger Strike

Government-employed doctors, in their 105th day of a strike for salary increases, are resorting to new pressures to force an adamant Treasury to comply with their demands. About a dozen doctors at the Soroka Hospital in Beersheba began a hunger strike today. It is expected to spread quickly to hospitals in Safed, Nahariya and other parts of the country.

The doctors have also begun a tactic intended to make it more expensive for the government to resist their demands than to comply. They are admitting patients to already overcrowded hospitals who, ordinarily, would not be hospitalized. They are prescribing expensive medications not necessarily required and ordering a long series of costly tests.

Those measures were normally reserved for seriously ill patients and emergency cases. By applying them to large numbers of patients, the doctors are defying long standing administrative orders to hold down expenses and not strain hospital budgets. The doctors claim their patients are now receiving better medical care than ever. But the patients themselves are being forced to wait in queues to receive the extra attention from the severely overburdened skeleton staffs manning most government hospitals.

The Health Ministry has taken no action against the doctors on grounds that decisions to hospitalize patients or prescribe specific tests have always been in the province of the attending physicians.