Nurses in Israel began a one-day strike on Monday, after their union was unable to come to an agreement with the Finance Ministry in 11th hour talks late Sunday night.
The strike began at 7:00 a.m. and will affect some hospitals, the Clalit and Leumit HMOs as well as public health clinics. Non-crucial services will be limited in hospitals, which will run on a Shabbat schedule.
Weeks of negotiations between union leaders and Finance Ministry representatives yielded no results, the nurses said.
The nurses have been complaining for months that they are understaffed, and that there is a lack of equipment, mainly rooms and beds for patients, resulting in overcrowding of up to 140 percent at hospitals throughout the country.
There is a shortage of some 2,400 nurses and the number grows by over 400 every year, Tami Zamir, a nurse at Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv, told Ynet News. Zamir noted that with a nurse’s wages starting at just NIS 4,500 a month, comparable with that of a waitress, the number of nursing students is dwindling.
Shmulik Bental, Chairman of the Nurses’ Committee at the Sheba Medical Center Tel Hashomer, told Ynet that although the regulations allow for 36 beds per ward at the center, there are on average 60 beds filled each day.
“The truth is that even the manpower required for 36 beds is missing,” he said. “This kind of medical practice is full of dangers first and foremost to the patients.”
Nurses have warned that this is a life-threatening situation. “There are patients sleeping in hallways, and sometimes people can wait for hours before they receive medical attention,” they said in a statement.
On February 15 nurses at the Soroka hospital in Beersheba and the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon left their posts for two hours, in protest of massive overcrowding and under-staffing.