The Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court convened on Tuesday night to hear the
government’s request for restraining orders against 28,000 nurses who have been
applying sanctions in the public hospitals for the last nine years, causing
serious disruption in hospitals, community health fund clinics and government
Realizing that their sanctions did not "hurt the government
enough" but still reluctant to cause damage to their patients, nurses across the
country walked off their jobs in hospital departments where lives would not be
at risk from 9 a.m. and returned at 1 p.m. Restricted numbers of nurses remained
staffed in intensive care and for giving out medications.
The Finance and
Health Ministries and Clalit Health Services decided to ask for the restraining
orders after they realized that negotiations had reached a dead end. Both the
Treasury and the Israel Nurses Association accused the other of foot dragging
and "lack of serious" in talks to reach a new wage agreement,which expires at
the end of December. The Treasury issued salary slips showing that nurses earn
"very good salaries" (usually hospital nurses who work frequent weekend and
holiday shifts), while the nurses’ union presented the wage slips of other
nurses who earn so little they are entitled to income supplements (mostly nurses
working in community clinics who work conventional hours).
As damage to
the health system’s normal routines accumulated, the School Health Service
developed a major backlog in scheduled vaccinations of pupils, and tipat halav
(well-baby) stations continue to fall behind in vaccinating, measuring and
testing babies and toddlers.
Thousands of elective (not emergency)
operations and treatments have been postponed, creating a queue that will take
months to eliminate. Despite the disagreement, both sides agree that there is a
severe shortage of nurses in the country. Despite their suffering, patients
generally voiced their support for the nurses in their struggle.
MK Ilan Gillon launched on Tuesday a campaign for handing out white rubber
bracelets to arouse public support for the nurses’ demands. Hadash MK Dov Khenin
charged that it "wasn’t the nurses who abandoned their patients on Tuesday
morning but the government. Although Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini called on
Prime Minister (and formally health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu to get involved
immediately in the labor unrest, he has not done so. Gillon called on Netanyahu
to visit the hospitals himself to see the patients’ and nurses’ problems.