Health sector launches 48-hour strike in protest of violence against medical staff

A healthcare strike was organized following an incident in which a resident of Be’er Ya’acov attacked a female doctor with an iron bar.

Ichilov Hospital during the medical strike, Thursday, June 16, 2022 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Ichilov Hospital during the medical strike, Thursday, June 16, 2022
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Medical staff across Israel started a 48-hour strike on Thursday morning in response to an incident of severe violence earlier this week when a doctor at a healthcare clinic was attacked by a patient wielding an iron bar.

The strike was arranged by the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) in cooperation with the Health Ministry and will see all healthcare clinics and hospitals operate in “Shabbat mode” for the duration of the strike, meaning they will not perform non-urgent elective surgeries or run outpatient clinics.

The strike was organized following an incident in which a resident of Be’er Ya’acov in his mid-thirties attacked a female doctor with an iron bar after not receiving the medical treatment he claimed he needed.

The doctor was moderately injured in the attack and was evacuated to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, for treatment. The suspect was arrested and taken for questioning, and Israel Police will request on Thursday that his detention be extended.

In response to the attack, the Ethics Bureau of the IMA released a statement reminding the public that “a person who has behaved violently towards a member of medical staff will be considered an undesirable personality in that medical institution and will be forced to seek medical treatment elsewhere.”

Protest against violence towards medical staff at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, May 19, 2022 (credit: SHAARE ZEDEK MEDICAL CENTER)Protest against violence towards medical staff at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, May 19, 2022 (credit: SHAARE ZEDEK MEDICAL CENTER)

Adding to the statement, IMA Ethics Burea chairman Dr. Tami Karni issued a statement of her own, stressing that “doctors should not be anyone’s punching bag. Their job is to heal patients, not absorb violence from them, not verbally, and certainly not physically.

“A doctor should not, and can not, treat a person who has used violence against them,” she concluded.

Following the attack, an urgent meeting was convened between Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash and officials from the Committee for the Implementation and Monitoring of the Elimination of Violence, the Israeli Medical Association, the Nurses Federation and senior Health Ministry officials. Also present at the meeting were representatives from Israel Police, the Justice Ministry and the Public Security Ministry. 

Wave of violence against medical staff

“The frequency of violent incidents against medical staff is daily."

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash

During the meeting, various measures to treat the wave of violence throughout the health system were discussed, as well as operative measures that could be taken in light of recent events.

“The frequency of violent incidents against medical staff is daily, whether it is verbal or physical violence,” said Ash at the start of the meeting. “These incidents of violence are not isolated incidents, they strike at our core. If staff are afraid to provide medical services, this could result in significant harm to public health and the healthcare system.

“The solutions are not simple, but that is why we are here, thinking together about how we can address prevention, enforcement and punishment in order to reduce violence to zero and provide our teams with a sense of protection.”

Just over a month ago in May, a 24-hour strike was called by the Israeli Medical Association following multiple incidents of violence in a narrow time frame. As a result of that strike, the government approved a proposal put forward by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz that will require all hospitals to have a police station on the premises.

Speaking at a medical event on Thursday, Horowitz turned his attention to the strike, calling violence against doctors “a coup d’etat,” adding that “the violence will not pass by quietly, security must be given to medical staff.”