At Poriya, It's Always a Skeleton Crew

Dr. Gassan Sfuri, a senior emergency physician, says the Tiberias hospital has a constant shortage of doctors in the emergency room.

Workers labored furiously yesterday to put the finishing touches on the new emergency wing at Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, which is due to open on Thursday.

While the doctors' strike seemingly threatens to mar the opening, Dr. Gassan Sfuri, a senior emergency physician, said it won't make much of a difference.

El Al 027 emergency vehicles
Yaniv Kubovich

"We have a constant shortage [of doctors] in the emergency room," he said. "For us, this 'Shabbat schedule' strike hasn't changed anything. We work on a Shabbat schedule [i.e. with a reduced staff] the entire year."

Though it seemed like business as usual in the emergency room, the doctors' sanctions were evident in the surgical wards. Nurses were running errands and handling administrative tasks, but surgeons were nowhere to be seen. Instead of the 25 operations a day the hospital usually averages, only one was performed yesterday.

"We serve a relatively small geographic area; everyone knows everyone else," said Ziva Rubin, head nurse of the operating rooms. "It's hard for me to tell someone who's been waiting to have surgery that his operation has been postponed.

"At the same time, I absolutely understand the doctors and think they're justified," she continued. "It's a difficult conflict - between a commitment to treat patients and the doctors' battle to fix the tough situation in which they find themselves."

Dr. Sfuri looked at the patients crowding into the emergency room. As he moved to resume treating them, he said he wasn't sure the doctors' protests would be effective.

"No one cares about the doctors' distress," he said. "Maybe if we were electric company workers, or Airports Authority workers, the strike would bring a faster response.

"We're only asking for what we deserve," he added. "Especially here, in the periphery, where the state of public medicine is much worse."