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Government Divided on Hospital Strike

Striking hospital workers demonstrated raucously outside the Knesset Monday while the Labor and Welfare Committee discussed the worsening situation at 29 government hospitals hit by a walkout of 11,000 administrative and maintenance personnel.

The strike, now in its second week, has raised political passions. Health Minister Shoshana Arbelli-Almoslino, a Laborite, sharply attacked Likud Finance Minister Moshe Nissim for what she called mishandling the hospital crisis. She had harsh words too for Premier Yitzhak Shamir for not holding a Cabinet debate on the country’s rapidly deteriorating health services.

Arbelli-Almoslino attacked Nissim for hinting Sunday that he would consider hiring private contractors to do maintenance work at the hospitals. Some hospitals have already engaged contractors or are using volunteers to collect soiled linen and provide fresh laundry.

The strikers retaliated by placing pickets outside kitchens and linen store rooms. At one point, their demonstration at the Knesset became disorderly, as strikers surged beyond police barriers. Welfare Committee chairperson Ora Namir sent word that she would adjourn the meeting unless the strikers withdrew immediately to the area where a police permit allowed them to demonstrate.

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