Nurses Strike Over Staff Shortages

israel nurses strike
Health Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Yerushalayim last week. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Nurses across Israel went out on strike Monday morning in protest over staff shortages which they say make it impossible to do their jobs.

Talks between union leaders and the Finance Ministry on Sunday night failed to yield an agreement to avert the walkout which would affect all health clinics, institutions and daycare centers, according to Channel 12.

The intended duration of the strike, whether it was to be a one-day, multiple-day or open-ended action, was not immediately clear.

The Health Ministry said Sunday that there were 813 nurses in quarantine, and Ynet reported that there had been no staffing additions to make up for the loss.

“We explained the situation to the director general of the Finance Ministry. It should be understood that the shortage of nurses did not start with the coronavirus [pandemic]. The responsibility is the treasury’s, and they had time to resolve this. We are on strike tomorrow,” National Nurses Union head Ilana Cohen told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein took the side of the nurses and called on the Finance Ministry to address their legitimate grievance.

“Dear nurses, my friends, I am with you in your struggle,” Edelstein said during a tour of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital, according to The Times of Israel. “I have much appreciation for your great, dedicated and vital work.”

“The manpower shortage isn’t only due to the coronavirus,” he agreed. “It is a continuous problem in the health system that has been magnified. The Finance Ministry should enable an increase in the number of positions. We will reinforce the ranks with quality manpower and empower the system also after we defeat the coronavirus.”

Surgery rooms reportedly will function with reduced staff, as on weekends, such that non-urgent operations which had been scheduled for Monday afternoon were canceled.

All hospital wards housing patients will similarly operate on weekend protocol with reduced staff, with the exception of the wards housing coronavirus patients. COVID-19 tests will also continue with full staff.

Each hospital will have a committee to decide on specific cases on an individual basis.

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