A private member's bill to set a minimum six-month prison term for anyone who physically attacks medical staffers passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday. The same piece of legislation presented by MKs Haim Oron (Meretz) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima) failed to pass last October. Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri (Gil Pensioners), who voted against it last time, did not participate in the latest vote even though he was in the Knesset at the time. Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar voiced amazement at the minister's absence, "despite the fact that he has promised to take action against such attacks and that he would work to make laws more stringent." Fourteen MKs voted in favor, with none opposed. No explanation was given by Ben-Yizri's personal spokesman, Tal Harel. Two additional attacks on doctors occurred on Wednesday - at the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam and at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva. "Violence against hospital and clinic staffers has long ago become a national epidemic," Blachar said. "Israeli society must take all the means at its disposal to protect medical staffers and deter those who think of raising a hand against us." Only last week in Rehovot, Kaplan Medical Center's senior urologist Dr. Marius Gai was stabbed with a screwdriver by a 68-year-old patient who wanted surgery for kidney stones rather than the treatment proposed by his doctors. Gai is still at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer with damage to his spinal cord and other wounds. His wife, Kaplan psychiatrist Dr. Nina Gai, appeared at the Knesset to describe the amount of violence against doctors and to support the Oron-Hasson bill. In the incident at Abarbanel, a male patient who tried to attack a female doctor six weeks ago was identified at the entrance to the emergency room by a security guard. When the patient asked to be hospitalized but was refused because doctors said it was unnecessary, he attacked the psychiatrist who examined him. Only with great difficulty were the security man and doctor able to overcome him and call for help and the police. The doctor was not injured, and the attacker was arrested. Abarbanel management asked the police and court not to send him for observation in its wards but to another mental hospital.