Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn announced a cessation of work throughout Israel’s health system between 8 and 10 a.m. Wednesday, following the tragic death of a Holon health clinic nurse at the hands of an allegedly disturbed elderly assailant who set her on fire in anger at his medical care facility.
Victim Tova Karero, 56, a nurse at a Clalit Health Services clinic on Kaplan Street, burned to death after the suspect, a 78-year-old Holocaust survivor known to be mentally ill, doused her with gasoline and set her alight at about 9 a.m. The suspect fled the scene and after a short manhunt was apprehended by police.
The two-hour strike (except for emergencies) was scheduled with the approval of Ilana Cohen, chairman of the Israel Nurses’ Association; Ariel Ya’acobi, chairman of the state employees organization; and Prosper Ben-Hamu, head of the Clalit workers union. An initial strike was also held on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at all Clalit clinics in the Tel Aviv area.
“This is to identify will all staffers of the health system who work day and night for the patients and their families around the country,” said Nissenkorn amid widespread protests in the health sector over the safety of the country’s health workers.
A Dan Region police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post
that under questioning the suspect admitted to setting Karero on fire, but maintained that he did not mean to kill her.
Speaking to press at the scene, Petah Tikva Ch.-Supt. Sigal Bar-Tzvi said the man was “apparently not satisfied [with his treatment] and during an argument doused flammable material on the nurse who was treating him at the time – material that he brought with him beforehand and lit.”
Bar-Tzvi said the suspect fled by car and was soon apprehended.
A woman named Dorit who witnessed the shocking event told Army Radio: “The door to Room 6 opened and suddenly I see a bottle on fire – a plastic juice bottle that was thrown into the room. All of a sudden there was black smoke and boom-like explosions.”
MDA medic Ofer Paranteki told reporters that, after the resulting fire at the clinic was extinguished, they found Karero’s lifeless body amid the smoke.
“This is a very difficult moment,” said Nissenkorn when learning of the murder. “A devoted nurse who served the community for 35 years was cruelly murdered at her workplace through no fault of her own. It’s inconceivable. I am shocked over this tragedy. We as a society must denounce all incidents of violence against health system workers. We will do all we can to help the nurses. I will demand that the various ministries help build an action plan to protect the workers.”
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman also expressed his shock over the death. “This is a crossing of the redline of violence. I trust the Israel Police to investigate this serious incident, and we will wait for the results. I want to express my support for the medical teams. We cannot stand by as this violence goes on. Nothing can justify such criminal behavior,” he said.
In recent years the ministry, the medical institutions and the Israel Medical Association have refrained almost completely from issuing protests or organizing workers’ assemblies over increasing violence. Between 2014 and 2016, there were some 3,000 instances of verbal or physical violence in hospitals and clinics, the ministry and IMA said.
A quarter of these incidents involved physical violence and most have occurred in hospitals, especially in hospital emergency rooms. This is the first murder of a nurse.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), a member of the Knesset Labor, Social Services and Health Committee, said Karero’s being burned to death was horrifying and added, “The lives of public health workers have become the target of insults and violence. It must end immediately.”
The Knesset committee will hold an urgent session on Wednesday morning to discuss the murder and ongoing violence against healthcare staff.
The Family Physicians Association expressed its shock at the murder: “A day doesn’t pass without some violence. It is routine. The government and law-enforcement authorities must end their apathy and take action so no more murders occur.”
The Hadassah Medical Organization has planned assemblies on Wednesday for its workers at its Jerusalem Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus medical centers in memory of the murdered nurse and to protest against the continuing violence against health system workers.