The resignation letters submitted by 700 medical residents in July have taken effect on Sunday morning, sending the public health system into a tailspin.
Shortly after, the National Labor Court declared the move as illegal. The court is due to hear the State's motion for further injunctions in the case later on Sunday.
Meanwhile, dozens of medical residents from the Sheba Medical Center have launched a hunger strike, which they will each uphold personally, and not as a group, in protest against the court's decision. They continue to work as usual.
The court's ruling, which states that the mass resignation is an "illegal collective measure," has effectively rendered the residents' letters of resignation null and void. The ruling also compels the residents to return to their posts, or risk breaking the law.
The letters, drafted as part of the doctors' wage protest, were originally entrusted with a third party. They were submitted to the various hospitals last week, after the residents said that the wage agreement signed between the Treasury and Israeli Medical Association (IMA) failed to meet their demands.
Not backing down. The residents (Photo: Ido Erez)
Following the court's ruling and until the matter is resolved, the residents' duties in hospitals would have to be carried out by attending doctors and specialist.
The State is seeking an injunction against any such move, present or future, alleging that mass resignations are illegal. The residents however, claim that each resignation letter was individual, and exercised an individual's right to leave his or her job.
The residents said that if need be, they would submit new letters of resignation with their respective hospitals.
The move has already been declared "catastrophic" by health system officials. The Health Ministry has instructed hospitals nationwide to cancel all planned vacations, as well as to try and defer any IDF reserve duty scheduled for doctors in the coming weeks.
Other measures include slating senior attending physicians and specialist for shifts usually done by the residents.
Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman welcomed the court's decision, and urged the residents to return to their posts without delay.
"This is an important decision that supports the agreement reached, which aims to improve the public health system. The Health Ministry will be sure to adhere to the letter of the agreement, as well as to its spirit."
Attorney Tal Keret, for the residents, said that her team was studying the ruling, which goes against a previous High Court of Justice ruling… This ruling infringes on the freedom of employment laws, which represent basic rights. We will consider our next move, and we're not ruling out a High Court appeal," she said.