Doctors Resume Their Strike, As Negotiations Break Down

An agreement reached Sunday to negotiate an end to the six-month-long health care crisis at government hospitals fell apart Monday.

Doctors, who promised to resume their normal work schedule immediately while discussing a settlement with the Health and Finance ministries, apparently had a change of mind overnight.

A meeting scheduled for 10 p.m. Sunday with Health Minister Shoshana Arbeli-Almoslino did not take place. Each side accused the other of bad faith.

The government-employed physicians have been resorting to selective work sanctions, affecting hospitals in different parts of the country on a rotating basis.

Staffs are reduced to Sabbath levels, outpatient clinics remain closed and only emergency surgery is performed. That was to have ended Monday.

Instead, the doctors continued their sanctions. They said they would negotiate only when they were satisfied that the government would seriously consider their demands.

Health Minister Arbeli-Almoslino complained Monday that she had been unable to contact the doctors after making arrangements to meet their representatives Sunday evening.

They refused to talk to her and did not respond to her calls, but they talked freely and eagerly to the news media, she said.

The doctors, for their part, questioned the government’s sincerity. They said they would not meet simply to hear again the offer of a 5 percent wage increase that they rejected out of hand a week ago.

But the Finance Ministry said it will not start serious negotiations until the doctors end their work sanctions. The stand-off continued Monday evening with no date set for further meetings.

There was no end in sight either to the job actions and hunger strikes begun last week by the nurses union. And doctors employed by Kupat Holim, Histadrut’s health care agency, to which most Israelis belong, are carrying out work sanctions of their own.

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