The Doctor’s Political Strike Exposes a Compromised Justice System

by Avi Abelow

Last week the Israeli Medical association of doctors went on strike, having doctors leave their posts in public hospitals. Not because of pay or conditions, but as part of the anti-government protests surrounding the judicial reform. They pitched it as standing up to the harm the judicial reform will do to the health system”, which is an absolute lie that even the Labor court ended up dismissing.

It wasn’t doctors in private hospitals or private practice, but only doctors in public hospitals.

Sick people who had appointments booked in months in advance for procedures or checkups were called the night before or the morning of, that their procedures were cancelled. Some patients only found out when they arrived at the hospital for their appointments.

One viral video, a few days before the strike, show a group of hospital doctors holding a microphone and running a protest in the lobby of the hospital. Patients were furious, screaming at the doctors to keep politics out of the hospital. To no avail. The video clearly shows the senior doctors not only ignoring the protest of the patients but screaming back at the patients.

This reality is absolutely insane and evil, with doctors in public institutions, literally going against the Hippocratic Oath and unethically placing their politics above their responsibility to give medical care to those in need.

It is a very sad reality that the political left has succeeded with their campaign to even corrupt doctors to place politics above their medical duties. In my opinion, any doctor who takes part in a political protest harming patients should be fired, regardless of how senior they are.

Many Israeli doctors were extremely upset about this doctors strike called by the umbrella medical organization of doctors and have since publicly resigned from the medical organization in protest of the medical organization taking a political stand, and harming the needs of the sick.

But, it gets worse. My friend Ricky Maman wrote an article in the Hebrew Makor Rishon newspaper exposing how the judicial system itself assisted the doctors strike. Ricky’s article, once again, highlights how the judicial system has itself become a political tool of the left that is not impartial at all. Instead of the judicial system being focused on enforcing the law, it acts as an ideological, corrupt branch of government, proving the imminent need for judicial reform, to return the justice system to be a place of laws and justice, instead of a bastion of the political left, abusing the law to work against right-wing, conservative governments, their laws and policies.

Here are some important excerpts from Ricky Maman’s article translated into English:

Social networks were filled with stories of patients who arrived for a variety of medical procedures and encountered empty emergency rooms: a terminal oncology patient who was denied palliative care, a child with special needs who arrived fasting for treatment that was postponed without notice, and a man who waited eight months for an appointment with a specialist and found out that the appointment was postponed for another six months. According to the data of the Ministry of Health, the potential harm of canceling appointments for one day in the government hospitals alone is about 20,000 visits to outpatient clinics, about 500 elective surgeries and about 600 visits and treatments at mental health clinics.

The Medical Association (RA) claimed that steps were taken to prevent harm to patients, and that exceptional committees were instructed to approve treatments for any patient who was not notified of the strike. However, the Labor Court ruled that the shutdown of the health care system from one day to the next caused serious harm to patients. “A 24-hour strike, even in its current form, harms hundreds of patients and patients who have been waiting for medical treatment in the public service for many months,” wrote Judge Ariela Gilzer-Katz in her decision. “Furthermore, a strike may cause serious harm to sick people, both adults and children, in the long term, and therefore the court does not support the strike.”

In the end, the labor court ordered the end of the strike and the return of the doctors to work. The Minister of Health welcomed the decision, but the entire conduct was shameful. The state procrastinated in submitting the request for injunctions and submitted a strange request devoid of central arguments, the labor court held a lengthy hearing instead of issuing immediate injunctions, and when the strike ended it seemed that everyone got what they wanted – except for the patients and the patients in the public health system.

It is not clear in advance what the Medical Association was trying to achieve with the strike, a day after the law on reducing the probable cause had already passed in the Knesset. What is the purpose of the strike since the legislation passed? And what exactly were the doctors’ demands? In the request submitted by the state prosecution for injunctions, instead of asserting the obvious – that this is a clearly political strike and therefore prohibited by law – the prosecution argued that the strike was “disproportionate” because it was scheduled for 24 hours and not just two hours, like last week’s strike.

The court’s decision was much more decisive than the request. Judge Gilzer-Katz determined that, contrary to the Medical Association’s claims, the judicial reform brings no financial harm to the doctors, and therefore it is not a strike for workers’ rights protected by law, but a political strike” the decision reads. The judge added that even when there is a protest strike, the two hours that the doctors sat down last week are enough, and there is no justification for further harming patients.

It seems that the state prosecutor’s office did not put in the effort to prevent this strike. At 9pm the evening before the strike, Israel’s Minister of Health Moshe Arbel ordered the state prosecutor’s office to submit a request to the Labor Court to prohibit the strike. In practice, the state prosecutor’s office only submitted the request at nine o’clock the next morning, two hours after the strike began.

In an interview with IDF Radio on the morning of the strike, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that since the afternoon hours, he and the Minister of Health had been chasing the legal authorities, including the legal advisor to the government, to submit the request for the Labor Court to forbid the strike, but according to him, their messages and calls were ignored and unanswered. For Smotrich this is a rerun of a situation he experienced with the previous anti-government strike back in March. Then, he was also spent hours trying to reach the State’s Prosecutor office to file injunctions against the strike back then, but the State Prosecutor’s office informed him that she left the office to go on strike!

In a similar case about two years ago, the teachers’ union announced in the evening a strike for the next day in the education system, in protest of the isolation plan announced by the Ministry of Education. The court granted restraining orders during the night, and classes started in the morning as usual. The reasoning for the decision was that 11 hours notice is not enough for an adequate discussion of the issue. Because yes, when you really want to, the state can stop strikes before they happen.

This time, on the other hand, the judicial system took its time: the attorney’s office hesitated in submitting the request and the court held a lengthy hearing, while all the facts and arguments were known and accepted. The Medical Association also wasted time in lengthy arguments, until even the judge called them to stop with the filibuster. The Minister of Health himself came to the court to argue in front of the judge about the unjustified harm to the patients. It is possible that if he had not done so, the hearing would have been even longer and the verdict would have been given only in the evening, (after the end of the strike) when it was already meaningless.

The doctors who protested last week represent a small part of the doctors in Israel, but they are enough to generate strong pressure on the Medical association to strike. They are organized, determined and well funded, including the organization of buses that came to the labor court wearing protest shirts and closely accompanied by the media. On the other hand, many doctors who oppose the mixing of politics in the health system strongly opposed the strike that took place, and some of them even canceled their membership in the Medical Association in protest.

This time the Minister of Health presented a determined position against the strike, and the court also made it clear that the incident cannot be repeated. But the question of whether the health system is also facing damage to its competence is certainly preoccupying the senior officials of the Ministry of Health these days.

In the end, it turned out that the event was an almost planned media spin: the Medical Association presented an achievement to the extremist faction that demanded action from the government, the judicial system within the government dragged their feet in acting to allow the strike to damage the healthcare system and generate media coverage, and the court ordered the strike to end only near the end of the workday. Only the elected officials who tried to prevent harm to the patients, and the patients affected by the strike, came out harmed.

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More