Medical Residents Resign in Protest of 26-hour Shifts

Two hundred medical residents resigned Thursday following the neo-liberal government refusal to allocate previouslyapproved funds that would go towards efforts to shorten shifts. While the government had originally agreed to shorten shifts by April this year, a July announcement said that the change would be pushed off until September 2023, angering the residents, citing “procedural problems caused by the upcoming elections.”

“I resign”, medical residents at Assuta Hospital in Ashdod (Photo: Mirsham)

The Mirsham organization, which represents medical residents in Israel, said in a press conference that a further 300 interns also signed letters of resignation and are threatening to hand them in if the Health Ministry doesn’t shorten the shifts. Mirsham said that the government does not intend to implement the plan, noting that they continue to be employed in inhumane conditions.

“Every week on Thursday at 2 p.m. further resignation letters will be filed in similar numbers,” said Dr. Rey Biton, head of Mirsham, addressing the government. “We are not afraid. We have nothing to lose,” she said. “The resignation letters being submitted right now with an aching heart and trembling hand are an indictment” against the government for failing to live up to its promises to end 26-hour shifts, Biton charged.

“You are leading to the worst health crisis in Israel’s history,” she added. “The government is not taking responsibility, only hiding behind the elections as though such an excuse can keep the disgrace away.” Biton said the government “has decided to forsake” doctors and patients.

Until 2000, residents worked 36-hour shifts and sometimes more. That year, an agreement was signed to reduce the shifts to 26 hours with a two-hour break. In 2012, following appeals to reduce the hours again, the government limited residents to two shifts a week, and said they could not work more than 71.5 hours in a week. Despite the new regulations, most hospitals have not implemented them.