Leaving the battlefield? Israelis nurses launch strike as corona numbers climb

After negotiations with the Finance Ministry fail, Israeli nurses launch a modified strike, demanding better working conditions.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The Israeli national nurses union officially launched a modified strike at 7:00 a.m. on Monday, reported N12 News.

The nurses are protesting what they say are unmanageable working conditions, caused by chronic understaffing, heavy workloads, and a lack of training for nurses in coronavirus wards.

The modified strike means that although nurses are technically not working, critical hospital units and departments will continue to operate. Coronavirus testing will continue as usual, and coronavirus units in hospitals will remain fully staffed.

Operating rooms will run on a minimally-staffed Shabbat schedule. Intensive care, neonatal, dialysis and oncology units and delivery rooms will be staffed by a smaller team of nurses. Elective and non-urgent surgeries will be cancelled.

At local health management clinics, nurses will provide only essential care. Nurses will continue administering insulin, caring for oncology and gastroenterology patients, and making home visits for patients who require it.

Overseas immunization services are cancelled completely, and nurses will not perform tests ordered by doctors, such as blood tests.

A late night meeting on Sunday between the Finance Ministry and nurses union representatives failed to prevent the strike.

Ilana Cohen, chairwoman of the National Nurses Union said to N12 News, “It’s unbelievable that the Finance Ministry has not yet internalized the magnitude of the nursing crisis.”

“We have no choice but to take national responsibility for the health of Israeli citizens and prevent the collapse of the healthcare system, especially as we will reach the peak of the epidemic in a few months, this winter.”

Last week, Cohen told Ynet, “The nurses are collapsing, the system is crashing…The government is abandoning the patients and nurses, and the healthcare system is drained.”

In June, Israeli nurses officially declared a labor dispute over staffing shortages and heavy workloads. Israeli nurses held a similar modified strike last July over the same complaints.

Dr. Zeev Feldman, chairman of the Israeli Physicians’ Association and deputy chairman of the Israel Medical Association, said in a statement, “This is a struggle for the healthcare system’s ability to treat Israeli patients during the most serious health crisis in the country’s history.”

“We unreservedly support this fight, which integrates with our demands for the recruitment of hundreds of additional doctors to enable us, the medical staff, to prepare for the flu and corona season this coming winter.”

“Unfortunately, there is no understanding in the Treasury that rapid action is needed to cover the financial deficits caused by the government’s directives from March, and the release of funds to recruit the necessary doctors and nurses in times of national emergency.”