Recent physician strike in Israel: a health system under stress?

Isr J Health Policy Res. 2013 Aug 15;2(1):33. doi: 10.1186/2045-4015-2-33.


In 2011, a series of physician strikes in Israel followed eight months of unsuccessful negotiations with the government (Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance). Strikes by physicians may be a warning that all is not well in a health system and protestors have claimed that they signify a system failure. In contrast, others argue that strikes have been a feature of the Israeli health system from its inception and should not be a cause for alarm. This paper analyses the Israeli health system from the perspective of the strikers' demands using the World Health Organisation's six health system building blocks as a framework, including: service delivery; health workforce; information; medical products, vaccines and technologies; leadership and governance; and financing. While we recognise that the immediate causes of the 2011 strikes were concerns about salaries and working conditions, we argue that a complex set of interacting factors underlie the strikers' demands, resonating with issues relating to five of the WHO building blocks. We argue that of the five, three are most significant and limit progress with all the others: a disgruntled health workforce, many of whom believe that striking is the only way to be heard; a lack of leadership by the government in understanding and responding to physicians' concerns; and a purported information insufficiency, manifest as a lack of critique and analysis that may have prevented those at the top from making a reliable diagnosis of the system's problems. This paper argues that there are cracks within the Israeli health system but that these are not irresolvable. The Israeli health system is a relatively new and popular health system, but there are no grounds for complacency.