26-Hour Shifts of Medical Interns to be Shortened Gradually

On Thursday, around 2,500 medical interns quit their jobs en masse in protest because of the 26-hour shifts that they had had to work. Nachman Ash, the Director-General of the Health Ministry, said it would take several years to implement the rules for shortening their hours. Ash said that the plan was a beginning of a significant and important path and vowed that they would eventually shorten the workday of the medical interns to 18-hour shifts. He added that it would take a few years, but the interns were not willing to accept that. He said that he knew that they had greater expectations and they would have a sit-down in order to make agreements. 

The head of the medical interns’ Mirsham organization, Dr. Ray Bitton delivered the resignation papers of 2,590 doctors-in-training to the District Health office in Tel Aviv on Thursday. Outside the office, Bitton said that it was a very sad day for Israel and they had been forced to take such a drastic step and submit resignation letters of over 2,500 medical interns. These resignations come a day after a government proposal was rejected by the interns, which suggested a reduction in shift timings gradually to 18 hours by 2026. This was only applicable for 10 hospitals that were based in outlying areas.

Ash said that this was something very important and he wanted the interns to understand that it had to be done responsibly. He said that making it wider would prevent them from implementing some things. This implied that the move would stay limited. He stated that they had examined everything and were willing to reduce shifts for everyone, but gradually and responsibly. On Friday, Bitton accused the Health Ministry of not having any ‘real dialogue’ with the group of medical interns. Bitton said that there wasn’t any layout. 

They had just shared a plan for 2022 and had made vague promises without a budget promise for five years, which means the interns would have to fight again. Bitton said that an orderly and serious proposal was needed for bringing any real change. According to the government, after the pilot program is tested in the 10 outlying hospitals, it would be expanded to other hospitals later on. However, they also said that this would depend on the budget available and only if there is no deterioration in the quality of medical care provided, which would be determined by a committee established for this purpose. 

The resignations of the medical interns are to go into effect in two weeks, but it is unclear if they can be revoked after that. The interns wrote a letter to Nitzan Horowitz, the Health Minister, and said that they did not have any personal interest behind it. The interns said that people who come to the hospitals should be treated by doctors who are not tired, exhausted, without empathy and unfocused because of inhuman conditions. They said that they felt abandoned and Horowitz had failed to follow up to his reassurances about reducing the hours. 

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