11,000 Nurses Stage Walkout

Israel’s 11,000 hospital nurses walked off their jobs early Monday afternoon. It was their third walkout since last Friday when the nurses staged a six-hour warning strike in support of demands for higher wages and better working conditions. On Sunday and Monday they refused duty in operating rooms, except for emergency cases.

The afternoon shift was ordered by the nurses’ workers committee not to report to their wards and the midnight-to-morning shift received the same instructions. The walkout disrupted negotiations which began Monday morning. Dan Michaeli, Director General of the Health Ministry, staged a walkout of his own. He said the Ministry could not negotiate with the nurses while their patients were without proper care.

Michaeli told Israel Television later that he could not understand the nurses’ action inasmuch as the Health Ministry had agreed to ease working conditions by hiring 1,500 more nurses and also agreed to a 33 percent wage increase over what the nurses were earning at the beginning of the year. He stressed that this was 21 percent more than workers in other sectors receive.

Last spring the hospital nurses struck for 17 days, crippling national health services. The weekend’s job actions seemed to be a reprise of the earlier strike. Hospital services were not too severely affected Friday because elective surgery is not scheduled for Fridays. But on Sunday, patients who had been waiting for surgery–some for many months — had to be sent home, and they were in an angry mood.

Nurses also walked out of the maternity wards, except those caring for premature infants and others needing special treatment. Emergency rooms and intensive care units were staffed by doctors. Health Minister Mordechai Gur said that while the nurses have a case, it was unethical for them to abandon their patients.

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