IMA demands solutions for violence against doctors

Ben-Yizri to meet with ministers soon to demand boost in enforcement and punishment of violators.

doctors 224.88 (photo credit: )
doctors 224.88
(photo credit: )
Israel Medical Association (IMA) chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar finished a meeting on violence against medical staffers with Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri on Monday saying he was "worried and disappointed" about Ben-Yizri's responses. A serious incident last week in which senior Kaplan Medical Center urologist Dr. Marius Gai was stabbed by a patient wielding a screwdriver has "not yet seeped into the minister's consciousness," Blachar charged, "and he continues to speak only in slogans." Outside the meeting at ministry headquarters in Jerusalem, dozens of physicians demonstrated against Ben-Yizri for not taking immediate action to fight the almost-daily verbal and physical attacks against doctors and nurses in hospitals and community clinics. The demonstrators demanded that Ben-Yizri initiate concrete steps before a murder occurs. Blachar said he had hoped to hear new ideas from the minister, but that instead, "he blamed the enforcement and legal system. We heard from him instead that violence is a phenomenon that affects all of Israeli society." The IMA chairman countered that even in a "violent society, there are limits, and someone must halt this insanity" of medical staffers being harmed by their patients. "You, the health minister, are responsible. If you don't want to or are unable to deal with it, get up and resign." The IMA, Blachar said, would not let the minister forget his responsibilities to the country's doctors. Tal Harel, the minister's personal spokesman, said after the meeting with Blachar that the ministry was "very anxious about the phenomenon of violence in Israeli society in general, and against medical staffers in particular. Concern about the welfare of doctors is not only the private concern of the IMA; it is high on the ministry's priority list. We are working night and day to find solutions for the phenomenon of violence through allocation of funds for additional security and encouraging ongoing complaints to the Israel Police that are thrown out due to 'lack of public interest,'" said Harel. The minister's spokesman said Ben-Yizri would soon meet with the justice and public security ministers and demand that they boost enforcement and punishment of violators. Harel added that a solution would not be achieved through "shallow attacks via the media," referring to the IMA's statement last week that in October 2007, Ben-Yizri had voted against a preliminary reading of a private members' bill that would have set a minimum six-month prison term for anyone who physically attacked a medical worker. Harel said later that his boss had voted that way because the Justice Ministry had strongly opposed the bill as reducing the freedom of the courts. Prof. Zion Haggai, chairman of the doctors‚ committee at Kaplan and a colleague of Gai, said the screwdriver attack could have happened to any other doctor. The number of guards must be increased in all hospital facilities where there is tension, he added. Gai's condition is slowly improving, but it is still not clear whether his limbs will be paralyzed due to the injury to his spinal cord. After last week's attack, 40 patients and relatives at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon "went wild," said Prof. Elisha Bar-Toov, chairman of the state hospital doctors' union. "Only the responsible behavior of the hospital prevented bloodshed there. Nevertheless, none of the troublemakers was arrested by the police." Dr. Shlomo Birkenfeld, chairman of the Clalit Health Services' doctors' union, said his union demanded a long-term work plan - with budgets to boost deterrence and punishment of attackers. The physicians would stop all contact with the ministry, he threatened, except urgent matters, unless serious action were taken. As the doctors demonstrated, a physician at a Clalit community clinic in Bat Yam was attacked by a patient. The clinic will close Tuesday in protest between 8 a.m. and noon.