The more than 100 day-long doctor's strike is about to come to an end. At this stage of the game, those at the negotiation table should be given room to make decisions that are wise, rational and in the national interest.
To put an end to this strike, the leaders of Israel's health care system must exercise restraint. That includes hospital administrators, Health Fund managers, and opinion leaders in the medical profession. They need to avoid unnecessary and damaging media spins. You can't please everyone.
Leaders in the Israel Medical Association have displayed responsible leadership characterized by common sense and courage.
After doctors made a dramatic and historic decision to register their attendance at work by clocking in, the Ministry of Finance went out of its way to accommodate doctors' demands. They even found a creative solution to Deputy Minister of Health Yakov Litzman's reasonable and legitimate request to shorten work hours for residents: They organized a pilot program in emergency rooms, delivery rooms and other hospital departments.
The outcry of overworked medical residents is understandable and worthy of our special concern. Now is the time to examine and find ways to further improve their work conditions. Residents are at the leading edge of the medical profession and constitute a brain trust for Israel's future.
We need to find a way to offer them special compensation and keep them in Israel's public health system. This is perhaps the most important issue to be negotiated in the coming hours in order to end this important yet difficult strike that has caused so much suffering.
Adding additional positions to Israel's public health care system will strengthen it. We must also try to bring back doctors who left the system, as well as recruit immigrant doctors to fill the newly available positions. Universities must also play their part in the tremendous effort to increase the diminishing number of doctors in Israel.
While we must significantly improve work and pay conditions for doctors in Israel's periphery, it is important to remember that the professional crisis in Israel's periphery cannot be solved by wage increases alone.
The Health Ministry's commendable plans for improving technological infrastructure in the periphery (some of which have been implemented in Israel's north), as well as its promotion of centers of medical excellence, should serve as a magnet for young doctors and specialists.
Israel's health care system is not cottage cheese. It took years to build and is a credit to our country. We don't need a raucous public battle. All parties involved in the struggle -- the Israel Medical Association, the Health Ministry, the Finance Ministries -- are doing the right thing by bringing this crisis to a close as swiftly as possible.