Magen David Adom Calls Strike; Israel’s Health Care Situation Worsens As Nurses Continue Walk-out

The health care situation in Israel, made precarious by the weeklong strike of 11,000 hospital nurses, worsened dramatically Monday when employes of the Magen David Adom called a strike of their own.

The Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross, maintains a fleet of ambulances and provides first aid in emergencies. Its workers walked off their jobs charging management with failure to meet promised wage increases and improved working conditions.

Only one ambulance per station continued to operate and most para-medical facilities were shut down except for the few mobile intensive care units staffed by doctors. Magen David Adom workers who remained on duty went on a hunger strike in support of their demands. They are weakening and soon will not be able to perform even limited tasks, they said.

MAGEN DAVID ADOM HEAD RESIGNS

The Director General of Magen David Adom, whose ambulances and equipment are provided mainly by donations in the U.S. and other countries, announced his resignation Monday night. He said he was quitting because the Finance Ministry forbade him to grant pay increases to his staff.

The hospital nurses strike committee announced at the same time that it was withdrawing the few nurses it had allowed to remain on duty. Wards normally staffed by 7-10 nurses, have been operating with a single nurse for the past week. But as of Monday night there will be none. Exceptions were made for emergency rooms, premature birth wards, intensive care units and dialysis centers.

The 11,000 women and male nurses went on strike June 23 to demand recognition of their union as sole bargaining agent. They claimed the general nurses union cannot speak for them because of the special conditions under which they work.

GOVT. REFUSES PAY HIKES

The strikers won recognition of their union last week. But they refuse to return to work until the government agrees to negotiate demands for increased nursing staffs at hospitals and wage hikes. The government has refused to consider pay increases.

Meanwhile, doctors who have been standing in for the absent nurses warned they cannot long continue to perform double duties and said they feared patients may die for lack of proper care. About half of the hospital patients were sent home shortly after the strike began.

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