Hospital Crisis Worsens As Nurses Stage Walk-outs

Israel’s hospital crisis worsened this week as nurses walked off their wards for 24 hours Tuesday and Wednesday and doctors, protesting that they can no longer bear the burden of doing nurses’ work as well as their own, halted treatment at out-patient clinics and cancelled all but the most urgent surgery.

President Chaim Herzog appealed to the nurses to return to their jobs Wednesday after the second walkout began at 3 p.m. local time. The government, meanwhile, is considering issuing back to work orders supported by the full weight of the law. The nurses said they would walk out again Thursday.

The crisis precipitated the first no-confidence motion in the Knesset since Yitzhak Shamir became Prime Minister last week. It was sponsored by Mapam and the Hadash (Communist) Party and was defeated by a large margin.

It is the first crisis as well for the new Health Minister, Shoshana Arbeli-Almoslino. She has been involved since Tuesday in efforts to break the impasse which stems from the nurses’ demands for higher pay and improved working conditions. The Health Ministry estimates that those demands could cost $80 million which cannot be drawn from its operational budget.

Finance Minister Moshe Nissim has already rejected the wage hikes which could throw the national budget askew. Efforts were underway Wednesday to arrange a meeting between Nissim and the nurses’ representatives to end the crisis.

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