Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said Tuesday that the Health Ministry is exploring the possibility of "importing" doctors licensed by OECD nations and training them to work in Israel, in order to meet the public health system's needs.
The health system plunged into chaos on Monday, as hundreds of residents in hospitals nationwide resigned. The State has filed for an emergency injunction to stop the mass resignation. The residents warned that "injunction would mean war… The State cannot force its doctors to work."
- Doctors: Injunctions means war
Litzman told reporters that Health Ministry's legal advisors were exploring the possibility of licensing foreign doctors, noting that the plan has been in the works for six months, and has been expedited in the wake of the recent crippling of the health system.
The deputy health minister visited the ministry's situation room on Tuesday. "This situation is bad and something must be done. I was the first to meet (the residents) and I made them several offers… I understand that these are young people who want to advance their careers – but these things cannot be achieved overnight.
"Yes, their wages were unreasonable, but they were given an increase. I know they probably wanted more, but we did try to accommodate them," he said.
Litzman implored the residents – "do not abandon the health system. The government will abide by the agreement signed with you – I guarantee it.
"Naturally, we want to resolve all of the issues. The health system has to regain its balance in collaboration with the residents who resigned. It's inconceivable to us that we would lose this excellent group of Israel's future doctors."
The Health Ministry, he stressed, "Has the situation under control." The ministry's situation room continued to monitor and redeploy patient referrals in order to alleviate the dire admissions situation in hospitals nationwide.
Still, most of Israel's hospitals have suspended all non-emergency procedures, as several hospital administrators described losing their residents as "losing both hands."
The residents representatives were unfazed by Litzman plan to "import" doctors: "He's more than welcome to try. If he thinks he could get doctors from the US and Canada to work in these conditions – more power to him," Dr. Oren Feldman, of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, who is part of the residents' negotiating team, said.
Earlier Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the residents to return to their posts and resume negotiations. Netanyahu said he made the residents a new wage offer, which he described as "a generous offer that would significantly improve their working conditions."
Yoav Malka contributed to this report
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