More than 2,500 medical interns resigned en-masse on Thursday in protest of the 26-hour shifts they are forced to work.
Representatives of the 2,590 young doctors arrived at the Health Ministry's offices in Tel Aviv and submitted their resignations letters which are set to come into effect within two weeks' time if the issue is not resolved.
"This resignation is presented to you, the health minister [Nitzan Horowitz], with a heavy heart and with no choice due to shifts of 26 hours of continuous work," the letters stated.
"Without sleep or rest, we are unable to perform medical operations or make fateful decisions regarding the lives of our patients who depend on us. Under this work schedule, we cannot provide the best treatment they need and deserve, as expected of us as doctors and physicians. These employment conditions also harm our personal health and the lives of our families.
"You [Horowitz] have broken your promises to shorten shifts for all interns without exception... This letter was sent after all our efforts have failed. Therefore, we, the undersigned, each one personally and with heavy heart, have come to the conclusion that we are unable to continue."
Interns are demanding that their shifts be cut from 26 to 18 hours, saying that the long hours and subsequent fatigue are detrimental to their health and that of their patients.
The government presented a multi-phased plan to reduce shifts to 18 hours by 2026 but only in 10 hospitals in outlying areas which interns have rejected. Horowitz and other ministry officials tried to dissuade residents from resigning, but talks ultimately fell through. The health minister dubbed the move "unnecessary."
Health Ministry officials refused to accept the resignation of the doctors-in-training and closed the doors to the office in fear that such a move could cripple Israel's already overburdened healthcare system. Instead, protest leaders stuck their personal letters to the front door and placed a binder containing thousands more on the building's forecourt.