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Nurses launch strike amid stalled labor talks
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
03/12/2012
Union introduces reduced Shabbat schedule at public hospitals, most health fund clinics after failing to reach deal with Treasury.
 
After the Finance Ministry failed to launch wage contract negotiations to which it had committed itself a few months ago, the Israel Nurses Union at all public hospitals and most health fund clinics launched a reduced Shabbat schedule at affected facilities.

The strike, which began on Monday morning, will cause serious disruptions in the health system, as doctors cannot function without nurses. The Maccabi and Leumit Health Funds’ nurses are not unionized through the Histadrut labor federation, and will therefore not apply sanctions.

But nurses at Clalit Health Services and Meuhedet Health Fund and are joining the sanctions, the Histadrut said on Sunday.

The labor federation spokeswoman said the nurses were asked by the Treasury to “wait until after the Knesset elections” at the end of January, but the nurses are unwilling to do so. “They are just giving excuses,” the spokeswoman said.

The Histadrut called on the government to keep its commitments and enter negotiations for a new labor contract immediately.

The union decided to go on strike to protest against the nurses’ heavy load in the health system’s community clinics and hospitals.

Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich criticized the Finance Ministry on Monday for stalling the wage contract negotiations with the Israel Nurses Union, and called on the Treasury to hold talks with the nurses to resolve the issue.

"It is time the Treasury stopped bluntly dismissing the nurses and hold serious negotiations with them," Yacimovich said.

"There's an inhumane workload on the nurses, which seriously affects treatment given to patients," Yacimovich added. "All of this happens while, alongside the public health system that is slowly dying out, the private health system, meant only for those who can afford it, is expanding. This is a distorted situation that requires remedy."

Nurses in ambulatory services such as community and outpatient clinics, diagnostic institutes and day hospitals were not attending work.

Operating theaters were functioning at a minimal Shabbat schedule, as were hospital departments and intensive care units. However, neonatal intensive care units and premature baby units, obstetrics, dialysis, oncology and IVF units were continuing to function, albeit with smaller staffs.

The union said that nursing schools around the country will have to function without nurse lecturers.

All the hospitals had an emergency team to deal with exceptions in cases of emergency.

In the community, nurses were working according to Shabbat schedules in home care, provision of insulin, infertility treatment, oncology, dialysis and gastro clinics (except for those patients who have already begun preparations for tests).

Regarding the school health service and well-baby (tipat halav) clinics, there was only a single duty station in each town and city for at-risk pregnant women and premature babies. Children were not receiving vaccinations until the sanctions end.

Epidemiological nurses were working in emergencies only, which could include suspected rabies, meningitis and outbreaks or epidemics of infection diseases. The tourist vaccination service at all district health offices were closed. Only a duty nurse was taking TSH and PKU blood tests.

More information on curtailed or reduced services can be obtained at (03) 692- 1315 and (03) 692-1379.

The union said that a new labor agreement is urgently needed because of the severe shortage of nurses and the heavy burden of work on those who are employed.

“It is vital not only for the nurses but also for the patients,” said union head Ilana Cohen.
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