Ministers Approve Special Budget to Reduce Wait for Elective Surgry

The ministerial committee on the health care crisis reported some progress Wednesday toward resolving the issues that have kept government and Histadrut hospitals in a state of near chaos in recent months.

It was the first time any movement was reported by the committee, which has been meeting daily since it was established at the beginning of June.

Its members, Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Finance Minister Moshe Nissim of Likud, and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Health Minister Shoshana Arbeli-Almoslino of Labor, have been deadlocked along party lines.

They agreed on Wednesday that public sector hospitals — those run by the state or by Kupat Holim, the Histadrut health care agency — should receive a special supplementary budget to reduce the waiting time for elective surgery, which is now as long as two years.

The doctors have been demanding second shifts in the operating theaters. But until now, Finance Minister Nissim, backed by Shamir, has refused to pay them additional wages for the extra duty.

Alternative means to compensate the doctors were discussed at a meeting of the ministerial committee Wednesday with Histadrut Secretary General Yisrael Kessar and Naum Fassa, head of Kupat Holim.

They agreed that each hospital would decide itself how to reimburse the physicians from special funds they would receive to pay for the second shifts.

Histadrut accepted the proposal as a one-time solution that would set no precedents for future situations involving the public sector.

Meanwhile, a judicial commission set up to deal with the overall question of the way health care is provided in Israel will hold its first meeting this week.

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