A thousand medical residents, interns and students of medicine marched through the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night, October 9, to protest the government’s decision to continue its policy of 26-hour shifts for most doctors during their residency. The protestors claim that if the current suggestions are implemented, only 10% of junior doctors working at hospitals will see their shifts actually reduced in length, as the government’s proposals only address hospitals in the periphery and only for certain professions.
Saturday night’s Tel Aviv march was a continuation of the residents’ campaign to shorten their 26-hour-long shifts, two days after nearly 2,600 quit en masse over the long-contested excessive work hours. “Twenty-six, Nitzan, be ashamed,” chanted the crowds as they blocked the entrance to the home of Health Minister and Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz, who refused to come out to speak with the demonstrators. Medical residents have been protesting over the 26-hour shifts they are forced to work, and have rejected a government proposal to gradually reduce shifts to 18 hours by 2026 — but only in 10 hospitals in outlying areas.
Dr. Rey Biton, head of the Mirsham union of medical residents, said the Health Ministry’s plan to reform the work schedule for medical residents, announced Thursday, October 7, is a sham. We were lied to, deceived. We were promised a real plan… there is no plan,” she said, arguing the ministry’s proposal ignored 90% of the young doctors and consisted of “claims that may sound good but have no commitments behind them.”
According to Biton: “There is no layout, but a plan for 2022 and then vague promises for five years without a budget promise, so every year we will have to fight again. If we want real change, we need a serious and orderly proposal.” An attempt by ministry officials to call in protest representatives for a meeting during the rally was rejected, with the demonstrators saying they would meet with Health Minister Horowitz and no one else.