Tel Aviv Labor Court delays doctors' strike sitting

June 14, 2011 09:20

Outpatient clinics in north closed due to strike; IMA throws support behind nurses call to add 190 slots in hospital intensive care units.

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Hospitalized man [illustrative]

man in hospital bed with nurse 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The Tel Aviv Labor Court delayed discussions over the recent doctors' strike scheduled for Tuesday to Thursday at 4 p.m. at the request of  the Finance Ministry and representative physicians.

Negotiations were set to continue Tuesday between the Director of Wages, Budget Division, and the Health Ministry to end the ongoing strike.

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Also on Tuesday, physicians went on strike at outpatient clinics in hospitals located in the north, including Ziv in Safed, Ha'emek in Afula, Tiberia's Porya, Galili Ma'aravi in Naharia, Rambam Bnei Tzion and Carmel in Haifa, and Hallel Yaffe in Hadera.

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The nurses union also joined the fight for better conditions on Monday, with the Israel Medical Association throwing support behind plans by the Nurses’ Association in the Histadrut labor federation to fight – starting Sunday – to add 190 nursing slots in hospital intensive care units, as was promised in January by the Finance and Health ministries and hospital directors.

Nurses union chief Ilana Cohen instructed all works committees representing nurses to cut by two the number of beds in each hospital internal medicine department, where seriously ill patients are attached to ventilators and thus require a higher level of supervision and treatment.

The nurses demanded more professionals on duty when the internal medicine departments around the country were chock full of patients due to the flu season last winter.

Cohen charged that only a handful of nurses have been added since then to the wards.

The action will be taken to “protect lives,” said the association, as too few nurses on duty mean inadequate treatment for patients. In the January agreement, the two ministries agreed that maximum capacity in internal medicine departments would be 120 percent by the end of this year, with a further reduction to 115% at the end of 2012 and to 110% a year thereafter.

“As agreed, we will not admit patients to internal medicine departments beyond these capacity rates,” Cohen said.

The nurses’ struggle will thus join the doctors’ fight for better conditions, she said. It has been very rare until now for nurses’ and doctors’ sanctions to be held simultaneously. In the middle of next week, the nurses will remove more beds from the wards, to “suit manpower slots of nurses in each department to the number of patients in them,” she said.

IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman called the nurses’ efforts a “just cause” to insist that the government honor agreements, especially those in which the Health and Finance ministries are supposed to be supervising them.

Eidelman said he was sorry that patients “have to suffer because of the government not carrying out agreements. There is no doubt that the nurses are suffering alongside the doctors from the reality of the [Treasury’s] systematic drying up of the public health system.”

The Health Ministry said that in hospitals where job slots have not been added according to the January agreement, the director of each hospital must immediately complete the addition of personnel with Treasury funding. “We expect the Treasury to carry out its side in the agreement.”

The Treasury said, however, that adding nurses in the internal medicine departments was “the responsibility of the Health Ministry.” The Finance Ministry spokesman included a letter sent by Moshe Bar-Simantov, deputy budgets branch director, who told Cohen that all the 190 slots are meant for internal medicine and not for other departments. “As for slots that were allocated to hospitals in accordance with a manpower agreement in 1997..., the slots have already been allocated in full,” Bar- Simantov wrote.

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