The Israel Nurses Union traded threats with Treasury on Monday, leading the Finance Ministry to announce it will appeal to Tel Aviv labor courts to end the eight-day-old nursing strike over working conditions and salary issues.
The union responded by announcing that starting Tuesday morning, the nurses would move to an emergency-care schedule.
"This decision was made in light of the refusal of the Nurses' Union to conduct serious negotiations," the ministry said in a press statement. "The State of Israel is currently in the midst of an election period, during which there is an outgoing government without an authorized budget. During this period it is very difficult, if not impossible, to respond in the affirmative to salary demands."
Israel Nurses Union chief Ilana Cohen quickly responded, announcing at a union meeting that "Starting tomorrow, nurses will abandon their posts and move to an emergency care schedule."
The nurses based their decision on the inability to contract with Treasury a new labor agreement that also would increase the number of nurses.
The Health Ministry’s medical administration made its first statement on the matter last week, saying the nurses strike already had led to a “significant decline in activity” in hospital surgical theaters, and reductions of 30 percent to 50% in admissions to public hospitals and visits to Clalit Health Services clinics.
Only cancer patients and other urgent patients have undergone surgery in the past two days. In addition, a serious slowdown has been felt in outpatient clinics, while queues for examination and treatment have lengthened considerably, the ministry said.
Internal medicine departments are heavily occupied with people suffering from complications of winter-connected conditions, but the patients are receiving treatment, the Health Ministry said. The ministry’s recommendations that everyone over the age of six months get a flu shot is even more important now.
Some hospital emergency rooms are overburdened, while others have seen a decline of patients because people are aware of the nurses’ sanctions and have stayed away. Delivery rooms are functioning normally.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to this report