Nurses across Israel have launched a general strike on Monday after negotiations over their employment terms reached an impasse. The healthcare professionals claim that the agreement that they had reached with the Finance Ministry earlier this year has not been upheld. The deal put an end to the previous nurses’ strike in February.
The Treasury called for the immediate resumption of the talks in a last minute effort to head off the strike, but the effort failed. The negotiations were nevertheless expected to continue on Monday.
“Emergency rooms have turned into war rooms,” National Association of Nurses Chairwoman Ilana Cohen said. “We cannot be putting out fires anymore.”
Only a skeleton nursing staff headed to work at public hospitals as the strike went into effect. Outpatient facilities and clinics remained unattended. The nurses further threatened they would stop accommodating “medical tourism that comes at the expense of hospital beds available to the citizens of Israel,” according Shaul Zakay, the head of the nurses association at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv.
“Our profession is facing a serious crisis,” he said. “There is an immense nurse shortage, which puts the existing nursing workforce under terrible pressure and undermines the quality of care.”
Zakay said he doesn’t believe the Finance Ministry will implement the understandings that were reached in February’s agreement.
“We tend to believe that new nurses won’t join the workforce without significant improvements to the employment terms and salary,” he said. “The veteran nurses are crushed by the workload. The latest deal that was signed in the beginning of the year went into effect in April and that was supposed to encourage nurses to come work at internal medicine units and emergency rooms, but it failed to solve the problem.”
According to Zakay, the nurses announced a labor dispute on November 20 but held off on launching the strike. He accused the Treasury of dragging its feet.
“I don’t believe that the Treasury’s officials understand the severity of the situation and truly seek a solution,” he continued. “I am ashamed to looked at the OECD data that ranks Israel next to last when it comes to the number of nurses per 1,000 people.”
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