COVID-19 intensive care unit at Ziv Medical Center, Safed. Medical staff in hospitals will receive compensation for days spent in quarantine. Doctors working in the community will not. (Photograph: David CohenFlash90)
Occupational Hazard

Doctors and nurses working at public health clinics demand full wages for time spent in quarantine.

Negotiations between the Ministry of Finance and the Israeli Medical Association were unsuccessful | At present, only medical staff working in hospitals will receive compensation for days spent in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure

03.05.2020, 11:49

Medical staff in the kupat cholim [local clinics of the national health system] demand to be compensated for days spent in isolation after being exposed to COVID-19 patients. Treasury Wages Commissioner Kobi Bar-Natan has announced that hospital medical workers are to be compensated fully for all days spent in isolation, and not just for days on leave.

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דיון ועדת הכספים. 30 באפריל. (צילום: דוברות הוועדה)

The exact figure of the compensation is calculated according to the individual’s average daily earnings over the three-month period directly preceding the period of isolation, per number of days spent in isolation.

Soldiers receive their wages even when they are injured in combat. Why should doctors who combat the virus be any different?

Following this announcement, nurses and doctors in other workplaces are now demanding a similar arrangement. So far, the Treasury has been unable to reach an agreement with the Medical Association and the Nurses' Federation.

"We were unable to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the [Israeli] Medical Association," explained Deputy Commissioner Efi Malkin. According to Malkin, the Treasury holds that hospital medical staff are considered a separate category from doctors at the local kupat cholim, whose working conditions more closely resemble social workers, prison wardens, and others who work in close contact to the public.

Responding to these remarks, Chairman of the Medical Association Zion Hagay noted that "the virus does not differentiate between a hospital doctor, a doctor in kupat cholim, or doctors with positions in the Ministry of Health. Doctors at the kupat cholim [clinics] face COVID-19 day and night. They visit the Corona treatment centers to check and see that the hospitals are functioning. That's why all doctors should be included."

Chairman of the Medical Association Zion Hagay: "The virus does not differentiate between a hospital doctor and a doctor in kupat cholim." (Photograph: Itzik Biran)

Ilana Cohen, Chairwoman of the Nurses' Union, agreed with Hagi: "It’s shameful. Medical staff don’t have the option to stop working because they’re scared of infection. You've underfunded the health system for years. Even though you’ve starved the system of resources, dedicated healthcare workers now are working twice as hard. It’s time to look them in the eye. Your promise to give them full wages was a lie.”

MK Keti Sheetrit of the Likud party also came out against the Treasury position: "My doctor was in self-isolation. During that time he worked from home and wrote prescriptions, and they still put him on unpaid leave. He sits at home and takes phone calls until midnight, and yet he’s unpaid. I contacted the Director-General of the Ministry of Health and they informed me that he would be adequately compensated – so what happened in the Treasury?"

Committee Chairman MK Oded Forer of the Yisrael Beiteinu party echoed Sheetrit, arguging that "soldiers receive their wages even when they are injured in combat. Why should doctors who combat the virus be any different? We can’t handle a situation where doctors are telling us, “we’re not working today, find another doctor.”

Committee Chairman MK Oded Forer (Photograph: Adina welman, Knesset)

Despite the objections of MKs Forer and Sheetrit, the Treasury representatives did not concede their position. According to them, "doctors employed by the Ministry of Health, who do not come into contact with [COVID-19] patients, belong to a different category of workers."


Brought to press with the help of the International Relations Division of the Histadrut