Dr. Leonid Eidelman, the chairman of the Israel Medical Association, is doing something he would probably never allow any of his patients to do: He is going on a hunger strike to try to force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in a four-month-old doctors’ strike.
With efforts to negotiate a settlement with the Finance Ministry exhausted in the wake of strikes that have taken place at various hospitals around the country, Eidelman and the IMA are ready to take more drastic measures to have the doctors’ demands met.
On Monday, Eidelman began his hunger strike and called on doctors to follow suit and join him in a protest march from the IMA offices in Ramat Gan (near Tel Aviv) to Jerusalem. There, they delivered a petition signed by tens of thousands of Israeli doctors and citizens. Hundreds of doctors joined Eidelman Wednesday, and others staged demonstrations locally in various locations around the country. Others will join him as he conducts a sit-down strike opposite the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.
At a press conference prior to the start of his hunger strike, Eidelman said, “Unfortunately, the state forsakes medicine, doctors and patients” — even, he added, after “128 days of striking.”
Eidelman continued, “Yes, the deterioration in the health care system has been going on for years, but the shortage and the distress [of doctors] have only grown worse from year to year.” He implored the Prime Minister to “please give us the tools to help patients.”
Among the IMA’s demands are the creation of an additional 1,000 jobs for doctors; the limitation of extended (36-hour) shifts to six per month for residents; the transfer of doctors to underserved peripheral areas of the country; an increase of doctors’ base hourly salary by 50%, and incentives for young people to enter the medical profession.
So far, the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister have refused to follow doctors’ orders. Whether Israel’s medical system can be cured remains to be seen.