Negotiations between striking nurses, the Finance Ministry and labor union officials continued on Tuesday, as the open-ended strike declared  by nurses employed by Clalit Health Services entered its second day.

Clalit runs a network of 14 hospitals and some 1,300 primary care clinics throughout Israel, as well as a network of dental clinics and pharmacies. Joining the Clalit strikers are nurses employed by Tipat Halav, which provides maternal and child health services in state-sponsored clinics throughout the country.

New wage agreements and help with the severe manpower deficit experienced by the nursing trade in Israel were at the core of Clalit Health Services workers’ demands, according to the ministry.

As a result, non-crucial services will be limited in all Clalit hospitals, which will be operating with a bare bones Shabbat staff. Clinics will continue to provide oncology treatment, dialysis and home care services; however, patients are advised to call ahead and verify the status of existing surgeries and appointments.

The National Association of Nurses spokesperson Ilana Cohen told Israel’s Channel 2 News on Sunday that going on strike was the last resort, as nurses nationwide were “on the verge of collapsing.”

“We do not want a strike but the government has pushed the nurses to it,” said Cohen. “I suggest that all Israeli citizens go into hospitals and witness patients lying in the corridors like homeless people due to the shortage in nursing staff. This issue should be first on Israel’s agenda.”

The nurses are demanding that their salaries be severed from existing public sector wage agreements and that nursing be categorized as a national priority profession.

The Finance Ministry was highly critical of the nurses union in a press release released on Monday.

“Even after negotiations that lasted 6.5 hours, the nurses union insisted on going ahead with a strike that is illegal and unjustified,” read the press release. It also specified that the union had vowed to avoid any strikes until the end of 2012.

The ministry added that salary hikes would not solve the manpower crisis, citing that 116 nursing positions, created in a March agreement, were still not filled.

Philip Podolsky contributed to this report.