Litzman expresses understanding for nurses' strike.

As nurses join ongoing doctors' strike, deputy health minister says "I will do everything so that agreements with nurses will be respected."

man in hospital bed with nurse 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
man in hospital bed with nurse 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman on Sunday expressed his support and understanding in the current nurses' strike as it joined the ongoing doctors' strike and applied sanctions simultaneously.
As a result of the strikes, all elective surgery except emergency and oncological surgery were shut down.
RELATED:Tel Aviv Labor Court delays doctors' strike sitting Nurses, seeking job slots, to join doctors in sanctions More sanctions ahead, as no progress on doctors’ dispute
Litzman said that agreements should be respected and that the state has already approved 48 out of 84 job slots in government hospitals.
The remaining 36 slots which still need funding were being negotiated in discussions between the Finance and Health Ministries.
"I will do everything so that the agreements with the nurses will be respected," Litzman said.
Regarding doctors, Litzman said, "No one wants to be treated by a doctor who has worked 26 hours straight. I will not let negotiations between the doctors and the Treasury proceed without reducing the [shifts] to 18-20 [hours]."  The number of monthly residents is also crucial to the Health Ministry and it will work in their favor as well, Litzman added.
On Thursday evening, the Israel Medical Association charged  that the state “backtracked” on agreements it reached on the number of night and weekend shifts that would be required of doctors.
“We returned to square one,” it said.
On Monday, all hospitals and community health fund clinics owned by Clalit Health Services will strike, except for urgent cases. On Tuesday, the Sunday schedule of sanctions except for urgent and oncological surgery will be held. On Wednesday, only urgent and oncological operations will be held in hospitals. In addition, hospital outpatient clinics, diagnostic clinics, psychiatric and geriatric hospitals and day hospitals in general will shut down.
On Thursday, the same schedule of sanctions as on Wednesday will be held.
The doctors have been applying sanctions intermittently for two-and-a-half months, demanding a new contract and reforms involving doctors in the periphery, residents, interns and pensioners.
The Nurses’ Association, a part of the Histadrut, says its members will cut by two the number of beds in each hospital’s internal medicine department where seriously ill patients are attached to ventilators and thus require much more supervision and treatment. The association charges that the Finance and Health Ministries have reneged on its agreement in January – at the height of the flu season – to add 190 nursing slots in hospital intensive care units. The Health Ministry has not commented, while the Treasury did not give a clear answer.
Nurses union chief Ilana Cohen has charged that only a handful of nurses have been added since then to the wards.
The action has been taken to “protect lives,” said the association, as too few nurses on duty means too little treatment for patients.
In the agreement last winter, the two ministries agreed that maximum capacity in internal medicine departments would be 120 percent by the end of this year, with a further reduction to 115% at the end of 2012 and to 110% a year thereafter.
“As agreed, we will not admit patients to internal medicine departments beyond these capacity rates,” Cohen added.
The IMA has voiced its support for the nurses struggle.
Meanwhile, Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, a gynecologist by profession, sent a letter to Prime Minister and formally health minister Binyamin Netanyahu to dismiss Litzman, who actually runs the ministry.
Adatto said that Litzman’s position that residents and interns should work only 16 hours at a time instead of the current 24 hours was “populistic” as there are not enough doctors to actually do so. She said that Litzman “must back down or resign” if he does not annul his statement on shifts and that he is “not connected to reality.”
“Behind the explosion in negotiations between the Treasury and IMA on Thursday stands the baseless stubbornness of the deputy minister,” she claimed.
Litzman, who has rarely intervened during the long period of sanctions and let the Treasury take the lead, maintained that he had reached agreement with the Finance Ministry to allocate 160 additional slots to government hospitals by the end of 2012 plus 100 more residents’ slots by the end of 2013.