Social workers: Strike only way to get patients better care

Repercussions are already hitting those in need; Anglos are mostly unaffected by strike.

By JOSHUA HAMERMAN
March 7, 2011 22:06
3 minute read.
Nir Barkat speaking to social workers

Nir Barkat 311 (do not publish again). (photo credit: Flash 90)

A veteran municipal social worker was scheduled to intervene this week in the case of an elderly woman whose husband was denying her the in-home care she needed. However, because of the social workers’ strike that began on Sunday, she had to cancel the intervention.

“The way we’re working now, it’s gotten to the point that [going on strike] is the only way for us to get [the patients] something better,” said the social worker, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity and is responsible for all the elderly residents in her community.

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In the case mentioned above, she was supposed to confront the husband, who may also have been emotionally abusing his wife, along with one of her colleagues, a doctor.

Her elderly patients require a lot of attention, and she tries not to say “no” to requests for follow-up visits after the two required per patient by law. In order to see as many as possible, she schedules visits – for which she is not paid – but can only afford to allot five to 10 minutes for each.

“There was one person who said to me before the strike that his wife was deteriorating badly, and I said I wouldn’t have time,” she said. “I had to say ‘no,’ and it was very hard for me.”

In order to save money on day care for her children, she works until 1 p.m. and then goes back to work from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., taking a salary cut in the process.

“If you have more than a child or two, it doesn’t pay to go to work fulltime because the money I’d earn would [only] pay for my two children in day care after 1:30 [p.m.]; the salary is not logical,” she said.

Rachel Ozick, a graduate student at the University of Haifa who holds a social work internship at Lady Davis Carmel Medical Center, expressed similar sentiments.

“The salary is abysmal compared to the work; they don’t match,” she said.

Ozick may have to cancel her weekly therapy sessions with multiple sclerosis patients due to the strike. The sessions usually occur at the beginning of the week, but Ozick has rescheduled them for Wednesday or Thursday, hoping the strike will be over by then.

The strike has not had a major impact on services received by Anglo immigrants, according to various organizations which assist them.

Nefesh B’Nefesh, for example, which works with the Jewish Agency for Israel to help Jews from North America and the UK make aliya, has employees who sometimes act as social workers by helping new olim find jobs and checking in with them on a monthly basis. However, it does not employ social workers.

Social workers employed by Telfed, the South African Zionist Federation (Israel), which serves the needs of South African olim, are not on strike because they come from the private sector.

“They sympathize with their coworkers in other sectors, but our social workers didn’t have a need to strike,” said Dorron Kline, the Ra’anana-based organization’s deputy director.

Meanwhile, social services in south Tel Aviv for asylum-seekers and migrant workers from Sudan, Eritrea and other countries have also been frozen. The Mesila Aid and Information Center for the Foreign Community, an organization run by the Tel Aviv- Jaffa Municipality, is currently only operating with volunteers.

“For [the refugees], it’s very bad, because there are no social workers over here, and many of them need our help,” said Leo Pechtet, a Mesila volunteer. “They come here and they have meetings with social workers who give them tips on how to manage in Israel – how to find work, how to get a visa, how to survive.”

A sign on the center’s front door states that it will remain closed until the strike ends.

“Some of them still come in, but we can’t do anything,” said Pechtet. “We can try to help them, but social workers can do more because they know how the system works.”


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