Nurses’ Strike in 2nd Day, Patient Care Endangered

A strike by 11,000 hospital nurses entered its second day Tuesday with apparently severe effects on patient care. Doctors who have been manning the wards since the walk-out began Monday morning reported the situation was becoming critical.

Almost all hospitals in Israel have sent home about 50 percent of their patients, presumably non-emergency cases. Emergency wards, intensive care units, maternity and premature birth departments were reported to have nurses on duty. But one hospital administrator was quoted Tuesday as saying it was only a matter of time before a patient dies for lock of attention.

The issue in the strike is the demand by the striking women and male nurses to be allowed to form their own independent union or an autonomous section within the general nurses union. They deny that pay is an issue. The nursing profession recently received a 12 percent wage hike. The strike is opposed by nurses employed at sick fund clinics or as public service or home care nurses. They say the general union, which they control, is the sole bargaining agent for the profession.

Representatives of both sides met with the Knesset’s Labor and Welfare Committee for seven hours Tuesday over the strike. The meeting was described as tense, with bitter clashes between the two nurses’ groups.

The Knesset Tuesday rejected a non-confidence motion on the strike situation, introduced by the Communist Party. Health Minister Mordechai Gur, speaking for the government, said he hoped a compromise would be reached by Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, many public service organizations are broadcasting their telephone numbers and addresses on radio and television offering to assist patients sent home from hospitals and their families.

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