Overburdened by Virus, Israeli Nurses Plan Strike Starting Monday

Nurses will still work on an emergency basis 'out of national responsibility and in order to stop the collapse of the system,' says representative

Ido Efrati
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The coronavirus ward at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, March 2020.
The coronavirus ward at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, March 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Ido Efrati

The National Association of Nurses announced on Wednesday they will go on strike starting Monday because of a staff shortage which has only gotten worse during the coronavirus outbreak crisis.

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The chairwoman of the nurses' union, Ilana Cohen, wrote in a letter to the heads of the hospitals, HMOs and the Health Ministry that starting next week nurses, will work on an emergency basis “out of national responsibility and in order to stop the collapse of the nursing system and save lives.”

“The coronavirus outbreak solidified and worsened the enormous shortage in manpower and resources” that the health system suffered from even before the crisis, Cohen wrote. But the Health Ministry has “continued to place the burden of hundreds of regulations and tasks on the shoulders of the nurses – and on the backs of the patients.” Without an immediate addition of hundreds of new nursing positions, dealing with the coronavirus outbreak will be “an impossible mission,” wrote Cohen.

Nurses at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, in 2019.
Nurses at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, in 2019.Credit: Emil Salman

If the strike happens, starting at 7 A.M. on Monday nurses will work in a limited manner. Community HMO clinics will provide only the following services: Home treatments, insulin injections, fertility treatments, oncology and gastroenterology treatments and outpatient services. Coronavirus testing will continue as normal.

In the hospitals, nurses will not work in clinics, institutes and outpatient services. Operating rooms will work in the same way they work on weekends, and afternoon surgery will be canceled – except for urgent operations approved by the committee for exceptions.

Nursing staff will work at weekend staffing levels in all inpatient wards. Intensive care departments will have a limited nursing staff, as will neonatal intensive care units, maternity rooms, dialysis, oncology and fertility departments. But coronavirus testing and treatment will continue with full staffing.

The government’s public health services will operate on a limited basis and only in urgent cases.

Only one well-baby center will remain open in every city for treating premature babies and at-risk pregnancies. Epidemiological investigations of COVID-19 patients will continue as normal.

The nurses' union directed the blame for the strike – and the growing number of coronavirus patients – at the Finance Ministry, saying it does not understand “the scope of the crisis and the heavy price in human lives Israeli citizens are paying for the collapse of the nursing system.”

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