TEL AVIV (Jul. 5)
Magen David Adom employees returned to work Tuesday afternoon, ending a 24-hour strike that had left Israel without ambulances and other emergency lifesaving services.
The walkout ended when the Finance and Health ministries agreed to make some $440,000 immediately available to the paramedical and first-aid society.
Magen David Adom is heavily in debt. The infusion of funds will enable it to meet its current payroll and buy gasoline for its ambulance fleet.
The management promised in return to undertake cost-cutting measures, including staff reductions and a general streamlining of operations aimed at greater efficiency.
The strike began at noon Monday as a work stoppage to protest management’s failure to pay June salaries, which were due on July 1.
The job action soon escalated, and Israelis discovered how badly they need the services provided by MDA, which is Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross.
Emergency telephone lines were unattended. Only a few ambulances were available, none of them equipped for emergency cardiac care. The paramedics trained in those procedures were off the job, in any event.
People with medical emergencies who man aged to reach an MDA center by phone were told to call a private ambulance or a taxi. One patient said he was advised to contact Finance Minister Moshe Nissim “who holds the money to pay wages and gasoline.”
Two motorists badly injured in a head-on collision that blocked the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway for over an hour Monday were treated by a police doctor and medical aide. Then an MDA ambulance showed up. It responded to the police emergency call in violation of strike committee orders.
Adverse publicity and an increasingly angry public are credited with persuading the government to act quickly and the paramedics to return to work.