Nurse writing prescriptions (illustrative)..
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Academics, including psychologists and social workers in the Histadrut, suddenly announced on Sunday night that they will begin an open-ended strike in public mental health clinics around the country. The union told the employees not to appear at their workplaces until further notice.
The general labor federation academic branch accused the Health Ministry of “hiding information on the activities of public mental health clinics, harming psychologists and social workers, freezing manpower slots and allowing tracks that bypass family physicians.
Yael Ron, chairman of the branch, said they were forced to “take this extreme step to save the future of mental health services in Israel. The head of the Union of Social Workers, Tzafra Dwek, added that “the state must provide open public services in mental health.”
The union officials charged that the strike results from “violations of understandings between the unions and Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov following the launching of mental health reform that began on July 1. These understandings, which “began to unwind” in November, had been meant to protect the vocational security of the employees and the “future of clinical psychology and social work.”
From Monday morning, there will be no services at the 54 clinics that service some 56,000 patients, among them 10,000 children and teenagers. Psychology students have also been hurt by the cutting of more than 70 percent of the ministry’s participation in the costs of hiring the graduates.
They accused the ministry of going back on promises to supply the unions with all information about the volume of clinics’ activities and of giving scholarships to graduates.
The unions also objected to “discrimination” by the ministry between a chain of ultra-Orthodox mental health clinics called Bayit Ham, which can avoid providing information to the health funds on patients to get their payments, and ordinary public mental health clinics.
“Unfortunately, said Ron, “all that we had warned about before the reform began is being carried out. The first victims are the clinic professionals and the patients.”
No comment was received by press time from the ministry spokeswoman.