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April 6, 2020 3:54 pm
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2,000 Israeli Medical Students Fighting Coronavirus Without Pay

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Health Ministry inspectors speak with a woman in self-quarantine as a precaution against coronavirus spread in Hadera, Israel, March 16, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

With the Israeli health system under massive pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic, some 2,000 medical students are volunteering to help in the relief efforts, working long hours without pay and risking infection themselves.

The Israeli news site N12 quoted one of the students, identified only as “A.,” as saying, “We didn’t think about money or the fact that we were the first to be exposed to patients, there was a sense of mission.”

However, A. noted, the volunteers were increasingly seeing the refusal of the authorities to compensate them as unfair.

“I was fired from two jobs following the corona,” A. said. “It’s important for me to keep contributing from my knowledge. But I have to pay rent, so it’s important for us to stop for a second and consider the matter.”

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The students are mostly involved in the testing process, which requires specialized knowledge and is considered high-risk.

Another student, R., said, “We have invested a lot of money and time into [our] studies and we see that everyone who contributes to the crisis professionally receives a salary. So why don’t medical students get one?”

“We are told, ‘Come volunteer, give of yourselves,’ and it’s clear that it started from a sense of mission, but now it feels like the state is just taking advantage of us in the most cynical way,” R. continued. “If we stop volunteering there will be no corona tests. I have to understand how I can support my family.”

“At this time when the economy is experiencing a crisis, it’s important to give people jobs and pay them,” she said, especially in cases when people are working in critical and essential jobs.

Doing so, she stated, would also help aid in the eventual economic recovery once the pandemic receded.

The organization Kav Lachayim is currently raising funds to compensate the student volunteers. Donations can be sent to kavlachayim.co.il/medicalstudents.

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