A nurse working in a health clinic of a Tel Aviv suburb died of burns she sustained yesterday morning, after a patient threw a firebomb into the clinic’s lab.
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According to the police, a man who had complained about his treatment at Clalit Health Services in Holon walked into the clinic's lab on Kaplan Street, threw a firebomb at 56-year-old Tova Carero that set her alight, and fled the scene. The suspect, who is 78 years old, was arrested after a brief manhunt.
After the incident, the Israel Medical Association announced a strike in all Clalit clinics in the Tel Aviv area that began at 11 A.M. yesterday and was to last until this morning. The entire health system will shut down between 8 A.M. and 10 A.M. today to protest the attack, with welfare services offices striking between 10 A.M. and noon.
According to Histadrut labor federation, “The strike is in solidarity with all health system staffers who work day and night for patients and their families throughout the country.”
Tzafra Dueck, chairman of the Israel Association of Social Workers, said all forms of violence against public service workers were to be condemned and eliminated. “For several years we’ve been warning about the lack of security for social workers in the local authorities and we feared it wouldn’t be long before there would be an extreme incident,” she said.
According to the preliminary investigation, the suspect had come to the clinic last week and was given a flu shot, administered by Carero. He then felt weak and unwell for a few days, a common side effect. Every day he returned to the clinic to complain, refusing to accept the medical staff's assurances that his reaction was routine.
The man came to the clinic yesterday carrying a bottle with a flammable substance, went straight to the lab where Carero worked and threw the burning bottle at her.
“A few of us were standing outside the laboratory and then we saw a soft drink bottle lit up and thrown inside the lab,” a witness named Dorit said. “There were shouts for everyone to get out, within seconds the entire place was engulfed in black smoke, explosions were heard. Rescue personnel arrived relatively quickly,” she added.
No one stopped the suspect as he ran from the clinic because no one immediately connected him to the fire that had erupted in the lab. Police said he fled in a vehicle and was arrested at the city exit.
Magen David Adom paramedic Ofir Parnetki said that three people were treated at the clinic for shock and taken to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.
Attorney Ofir Katavi of the Public Defender’s Office, who is representing the suspect, said, “We’re talking about a tragic event. The elderly man who suffers from emotional problems claims he hadn’t wanted to hurt any of the medical staff and didn’t pour flammable liquid on the nurse,” as early reports yesterday had indicated. “He wanted to damage property to protest the suffering he’d been caused and to get help from the authorities.”
The small neighborhood clinic near Holon’s downtown area is protected by security patrols that travel between Clalit’s various branches, but there is no permanent security guard stationed at the clinic.
“I am shocked at the possibility that a clinic employee has been murdered, apparently by a patient," Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said. "This crosses all red lines of dangerous, forbidden violence. I want to express my support to the doctors, nurses, and all employees of the health system. Nothing justifies such criminal behavior. My condolences to the dear family at this difficult time.”
In 2011, a study conducted by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute that surveyed some 700 medical staffers in community clinics found that 75 percent of them had encountered verbal violence – yelling, cursing and threats by patients – at least once in the preceding year, with 40 percent reporting at least three such experiences that year.
In its definition of physical violence, the survey included refusal to leave a treatment room or throwing objects. Using this definition, 36 percent of the clinic workers had experienced at least one such incident the preceding year, while 10 percent reported at least three such incidents. Eighty-five percent said they had witnessed at least one violent incident the previous year that wasn’t directed at them.
According to the study, only 11 percent of the incidents were reported to police.