Nurse injecting patient. Tomer Appelbaum
Nurse injecting patient. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Nurses in the internal medicine departments at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon walked off the job on Sunday morning in protest at a shortage of nursing staff at the hospital. In June, nurses around the country launched a national campaign to protest the shortage of custodial nursing staff. Hospital administrations then agreed to increase staffing levels, but the shortage at Wolfson remains.

At 10 A.M. on Sunday, dozens of Wolfson's nurses walked off the job. At 3 P.M., two nurses started work in each of the internal medicine departments, on an emergency footing. The labor sanctions will continue Monday, said the national nurses union head Ilana Cohen, who added that consideration is being given to extending the sanctions into the evening hours.

Over the past several days there have been more than 50 patients in the internal medicine departments at Wolfson, although staffing standards assume a maximum of 38 patients. The large number of patients also runs counter to the agreement that the nursing organization reached with the Health Ministry that was supposed to limit the number of internal medicine patients to an excess of 20 percent over full occupancy, meaning a limit of 45 patients in a department designed to accommodate 38.

There are 24 too few nurses in the internal medicine departments at Wolfson, according to the chairwoman of the nurses' committee at the hospital, Rozi Grinshpan. "Despite our warnings," she said, "nothing has been done so far and the load is huge."

She expressed hope that the crisis could be resolved quickly.

On an national level, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman intervened following the summer's nursing protests and announced that additional funding would be provided to hire nurses around the country, in accordance with an agreement that had actually been reached on the issue last January. Wolfson has not hired additional nurses, however.

"We are again returning to the phenomenon of patients in the corridors, and that's even before the beginning of winter," Cohen said. "We have no intention to give up this fight. Because if we give up, the patients will be the losers."

The head nurse's office at Wolfson issued a call on Sunday for the nurses at the hospital to return to work immediately. For her part, deputy hospital director Zehavit Zivner said the nurse staffing levels in her hospital's internal medicine departments were almost fully up to standard, with just 2 or 3 nurses per department lacking. She said the hospital was currently recruiting nurses, acknowledging, however, that there is a nursing shortage around the country, making it more difficult to hire staff. There was no shortage of shift nurses, she added.

In other developments, the country's medical residents are planning a large demonstration opposite the Tel Aviv courthouse this evening, which is also expected to be attended by interns and medical students, in an effort to secure improved employment conditions. The residents boycotted a negotiating session on Sunday with representatives of the Finance Ministry and the Israel Medical Association. Medical sources said they believed the residents stayed away in anticipation of a hearing tomorrow on the residents' appeal to the Supreme Court of a National Labor Court ruling ordering them back to work.