Doctors on Thursday night declared a work dispute. Under Israeli labor law, a work dispute is declared for a period of two weeks, during which time management and labor attempt to work out their issues. If that does not happen, workers are free to declare a strike.
That will happen, the union representing doctors said, if the government does not back down on plans to forbid heads of departments from taking on “outside work,” treating patients privately. The new rule would apply to all heads of departments and surgeries, and require that 100 percent of their time be dedicated to public service. With that, doctors would not be able to consult privately.
The reason for the new rule, according to the Health and Finance Ministries, both of which are sponsoring the legislation, is to shorten the time that patients who are to undergo elective operations will have to wait for their surgery. In recent months, officials in the Health Ministry have focused on the private activities of doctors as one reason for the delays, since a doctor who is earning more money on a private operation is likely to eschew his “day job.”
But the union said that the new rules violate long-standing understandings between doctors and the health system. Israeli doctors are generally paid less than their counterparts abroad, and permission to work privately is a way for them to make up the income. As a result, many doctors have entered into long-term agreements with health funds and private insurers, which they will now be forced to end.
The union said that it was protesting “the intention to cancel the rights of doctors and department heads to conduct private work, rights that have been in place for decades and that are based on previous agreements.”