Health Services Throughout Israel Shut Down in Protest Against Violence Faced on the Job

Following the non-fatal stabbing of a nurse, the Nurses' Association shut down health services across the country to protest the violence that they face while on the job

Nurses protest outside the Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, July 4, 2018.
Emil salman

Health services in Israel were shut down countrywide on Wednesday as thousands of medical staff members held rallies and demonstrations protesting the violence they face on the job. The Nurses’ Association shut down the health system after a former patient stabbed and injured a nurse at Shmuel Harofe Hospital in Be’er Yaakov on Monday.

“It’s inconceivable that medical staff who come to work should feel they’re in a battlefield,” said Dr. Rely Alon, director of Nursing and Health Professions Division at Hadassah Medical Center, speaking at a rally at the hospital.

“This is another sad morning, in which we cry out for zero tolerance toward violence. It’s unthinkable that a nurse – the late Tova Kararo – was murdered by a patient, while another nurse was stabbed by a patient who thinks he wasn’t treated in the best way,” she said.

Alon called on the Knesset to adopt the decisions of a committee set up after Kararo had been burned to death by a patient at Holon’s Clalit health fund in March last year.

Esther Ayalon Kobo, the daughter of Rahel Kobo, who was stabbed on Monday, visited her mother in hospital on Wednesday and said: “We’re still stunned and cannot understand the attack. My mother, Raheli, is a devoted nurse. When I was growing up we didn’t go to parties because she had to replace someone on a shift, because someone needed her more than we did – that’s how we grew up.”

Kobo said that during an otherwise routine shift, a former patient who wanted to be re-admitted attacked her mother while she was talking to him. “He hurt her because she was part of the medical staff, because he was angry. It could have been any other nurse or orderly there. We cannot put up with such situations, these things cannot be allowed to happen,” she said.

Hospitals operated on skeleton crews until the end of each institution’s workday. Out clinics, day clinics and non-urgent medical services were shut down and a reduced emergency staff worked in operating rooms, intensive care, dialysis and delivery rooms and other departments.

Community nurses also joined the strike, providing only home treatments, insulin administration, fertility and cancer treatments and hotline services. The Health Ministry branches and family health clinics operated with skeleton crews.

In December 2017 a Health Ministry committee published a report to quash violence against medical staff and employees in the health system. The committee, headed by Professor Shlomo Mor Yosef, was appointed following Kararo’s murder.

Every year some 3,500 violent attacks against medical staff are reported, according to the report – 20 percent of them were categorized as physical violence and the rest as verbal violence. Only 11 percent of the incidents are reported to the police and even fewer end up in a court of law.

“Despite several measures taken over the years, including government prevention plans, the violence toward the health system workers continues to be a troubling, serious problem, and the scope and intensity of the violence are increasing,” the report says.

These figures are in keeping with the Brookdale Institute and Clalit studies released in the past, which found that 75 percent of staff members in clinics reported that they had suffered violence in its various forms.