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Hospital staff attacked in northern Israel ahead of strike over mounting violence

Doctors on partial strike Thursday at hospitals, clinics to protest violence against medics; union calls for attacks on medical staff to be treated as severely as attacks on police

Family members and security guards clash at the Galilee Medical Center on May 18, 2022 (Screencapture/Channel 12)
Family members and security guards clash at the Galilee Medical Center on May 18, 2022 (Screencapture/Channel 12)

Staff at a hospital in northern Israel were attacked Wednesday by angry family members of a deceased patient, the latest in a string of incidents in recent days that has prompted a partial strike on Thursday to protest violence against medics.

In Wednesday’s incident, dozens of people tried to force their way into the trauma room of the Galilee Medical Center in Naharia after they were informed of the death of a 28-year-old man, a resident of Abu Snan, who had been in a motorcycle accident.

Video from the scene showed the crowd, mostly family members, scuffling with hospital guards, who were forced to use pepper spray to disperse them.

The hospital said several guards were lightly hurt.

Police reinforcements were also sent to the hospital.

The incident came as public hospitals and clinics were already planning to strike on Thursday to protest repeated violence against medics.

 

The union said the hospitals and clinics would operate on a weekend schedule for 24 hours on Thursday, offering reduced services.

The Israel Medical Association, announcing the strike, called for a police presence in every emergency room, and said hospitals and community clinics needed improved security systems.

The association also urged a change in legislation so that an attack on medical staff would be viewed with the same severity as an attack on a uniformed police officer.

The chairman of the Israel Medical Association, Prof. Zion Hagay, said that Thursday’s strike would be just the start of action taken by the medical establishment if changes were not made to protect workers.

“We have long announced that we will not accept any more incidents of violence in the health system, and it has unfortunately become a real epidemic,” Hagay said at the start of the association’s meeting on Tuesday evening. “The lives of doctors must not be abandoned, and this initial strike is only a warning.”

“As long as the Israeli government does not immediately take the necessary steps to increase the personal security of medical staff, we will not hesitate to increase the steps,” Hagay said.

Illustrative: Nurses strike at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in protest of violence against medical personnel, July 4, 2018 (Courtesy Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital)

There has been no announcement from the nurses union on whether they will be joining the strike.

The strike was called after family members of a patient who died at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem on Monday attacked medical staff and caused significant damage to the intensive care unit after they were informed of his death.

An initial investigation found the patient died after taking an overdose, police said, without giving further details.

Relatives of the man arrived at the hospital and were notified of the patient’s death.

After they were given the news, a number of the patient’s relatives broke doors and windows in the unit, damaged the nurse’s station, computers, and equipment, and attacked staff. Two members of staff were lightly injured, requiring medical treatment.

Police said they arrested an East Jerusalem resident in his twenties on suspicion of being involved in the violent clash at the medical center.

Recent months have seen an increased wave of attacks against medical teams and facilities across the country.

In November, nurses at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center held a strike for several hours in protest of a violent incident in which staff members were beaten and threatened by the family of a dying cancer patient.

Earlier the same month Rambam said it had to forcibly remove dozens of people who gathered outside the facility after a victim of violence was brought there for treatment. According to hospital officials, riot police were called to the scene to prevent the crowd from entering the hospital.

And in Beersheba, four people were hurt and 19 were arrested in a massive brawl outside Soroka Medical Center that included gunfire.

In 2017, in one of the most severe cases in recent years, a man burned 55-year-old nurse Tova Kararo to death at the Holon clinic at which she worked.

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