Court Orders Nurses Back to Work as Talks Resume

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Tel Aviv Labor Court ordered nurses back to work on Wednesday evening after a two-day walkout over a range of issues. The National Nurses Union and the Health Ministry agreed to immediate resume talks to resolve the crisis, The Times of Israel reported.

Nurses across the country went on strike Tuesday after negotiations failed to settle the grievances, which include poor working conditions, heavy caseloads amid a manpower shortage and low standards of care.

“We came here [to the court] because we think the labor action and strikes are not good for the healthcare system and the patients and we can enter a process of dialogue… we accept the court decision and enter negotiations,” said Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, according to Channel 12.

“The nurses are falling apart and cannot continue this way,” said union head Ilana Cohen, adding hopefully that “there are solutions that can certainly be found within a week.”

As of 7 a.m. on Tuesday, nursing services at hospitals and health clinics offered reduced services. Emergency treatment, including surgert, were still being carried on. Other essential services, such as care for hospitalized patients, intensive care, neonatal care, oncological treatment and dialysis, were available but limited. Geriatric and psychiatric facilities continued to function, but service were also limited, according to reports.

“The health and finance ministries are directly responsible for the intolerable lines in providing health care to the public and community. They create heavy burdens for the nurses and undermine their ability to provide safe and appropriate treatment to patients,” the nurses said in a statement on Tuesday.

A recent report by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel found that Israel’s health system has suffered from systemic failures in planning, budgeting and regulation by the government, resulting in an acute shortage of beds, inefficiencies and gaps in accessibility of treatment.

The report said the country lags behind others in the 36-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in number of hospital beds, and has shorter hospital stays and particularly high occupancy rates.

In Israel, the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people is 2.2 versus 3.6 in the OECD. While the number of beds is trending down in most countries, the decline is especially sharp in Israel — a 22 percent decline versus an OECD average of 15 percent between 2002 and 2017.

The shorter average hospitalization time in Israel — about five days per patient in contrast to an average of 6.7 days among all OECD countries — and the high occupancy rate, about 94 percent versus an average of 75 percent in the OECD, hampers the hospitals’ ability to handle emergencies and points to a potentially lower level of treatment quality, the report said.