Government Rejects Proposal Urged by Striking Doctors

Striking public hospital doctors revived a proposal Tuesday to involve the private sector in solving the health care crisis.

But they got a negative response from the government and the Histadrut trade union federation, which both rejected the idea when it was originally proposed weeks ago.

The doctors turned down a government offer last week of a 5 percent pay increase. It was intended to compensate them for extra duty during second-shift use of operating rooms.

The second shift is urgently needed to reduce the huge backlog of patients waiting as long as two years for non-emergency surgery. The dispute with the doctors is over extra pay.

Their counterproposal is to have a private company rent the operating rooms at state-run hospitals and those of Kupat Holim for the afternoon or evening hours when they are idle. Kupat Holim is the Histadrut health care agency.

The private company would pay the doctors’ salaries for those shifts. The service would be funded by higher health insurance premiums. The government would subsidize patients who could not afford the higher fees.

The immediate reaction by Health Ministry sources was that the plan is unworkable. No official appointed to head a hospital facility would allow it to be used on an overtime basis by a private company, the ministry sources said.

They called the doctors’ plan. “strange, evasive and a public relations tactic.”

The doctors, meanwhile, continued to apply work sanctions against public hospitals on a rotating basis.

Emergency rooms were closed, duty staffs were reduced to the Sabbath level and only emergency, life-saving procedures were performed.

The nurses union has instituted similar job actions and its members are on a hunger strike outside the Prime Minister’s Office.

The nurses are not seeking second-shift compensation. They say they are overworked, understaffed and underpaid for their single-shift duties.

The Health Ministry, meanwhile, refused to say whether the government will be forced to issue back-to-work orders as the situation at the hospitals deteriorates further.

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