News

Israeli doctors cancel elective surgery in dispute over pay

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d2433 (Published 14 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2433
  1. Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
  1. 1Jerusalem

The Israel Medical Association has declared a dispute with the government over pay, and members have cancelled elective surgery for several days, 11 years after the association agreed to a no strike clause.

It is also calling for the healthcare system to be reorganised and given substantially more state funding.

The association gave up the right to strike in exchange for arbitration in a dispute over its salaries contract in 2000, at the end of a 127 day stoppage. But it has become frustrated with the present deadlock after “intermittent” talks with the Treasury. So far the government has not offered any pay rise across the board.

The Treasury claims that the “average” doctor earns “enough,” at the equivalent of $84 000 (£52 000; €58 000) a year. The association points out that although some senior doctors earn much more than that, some young doctors earn close to the national minimum wage, despite working long hours, including at nights and weekends.

Many senior doctors boost their income by working in private clinics and hospitals, while others provide private medical services inside public hospitals. This only occurs in Jerusalem, however, because elsewhere such arrangements are illegal. The association also says that retired doctors’ pensions are low, as they are calculated from basic wages without overtime and other special benefits.

Another point of contention between the association and the government is the requirement for doctors to “clock on” to prove that they are working and not “moonlighting.” The association, which represents more than 20 000 doctors, says that this is inappropriate to their profession and says that cheating is rare.

The government is willing to offer a pay rise only to younger doctors and those working in the less attractive periphery of the country, where private work is hard to find. This would result in differential salary rates.

During the 2000 strike only urgent treatment was provided. The association is aware that patients wanting elective treatment may try to access the country’s burgeoning private medical centres, even though such treatment is expensive.

Leonid Eidelman, the association’s chairman, said that Israel’s proportion of 43% of health expenditure on private treatment was too high and that such a large private sector would create a “two tier system,” one for rich people and one for poor people.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2433