Nurses call strike over violence against medical staff

Union says authorities failing to address increasing attacks on health care professionals by patients

Illustrative A nurse in a hospital, in Israel, on September 3, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative A nurse in a hospital, in Israel, on September 3, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israeli nurses on Monday declared a general strike to protest what they say is the government’s failure to address escalating violence against health care professionals.

The Israel Nurses Union said workers at hospitals and local HMO clinics would walk off the job Tuesday until their safety concerns were addressed.

“Until immediate action is taken to ease the unbearable burden and protect health care workers, nurses will not abandon this fight,” Union chairwoman Ilana Cohen said in a Monday statement announcing the labor action. “It’s inconceivable that the government is standing by and watching health care facilities turn into war zones.”

According to a 2017 Health Ministry report, there are more than 3,000 incidents of violence against medical personnel per year. Only 11 percent of the incidents are reported to police, and only small portion of those are brought to trial.

Nurses briefly went on strike last month after a 65-year-old nurse at Shmuel Harofe Hospital in Be’er Yaakov was stabbed and injured by a patient. According to court documents, 31-year-old asylum seeker Oshar Bakhit stabbed Rachel Kovo out of anger when the hospital refused to re-admit him for treatment.

The Health Ministry strongly condemned the attack on Kovo and ordered security increased at health institutions.

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

But Cohen said that no changes were made following the attack on Kovo.

“For years, we have been constantly warning about the violence, and year after year it increases,” she told the Ynet news site last month. “We warned and alerted the relevant ministries, but they refuse to deal with it.”

Earlier in July, the Tel Aviv District court sentenced a woman to five months of community service for assaulting hospital security staff at Ichilov Hospital last September. In his ruling, the judge noted that “violence against medical staff and security guards has become widespread and it is incumbent on the court to protect medical staff.”

Security camera footage from Shmuel Harofe Medical Center allegedly shows Oshar Bakhit drawing a knife, with which he stabbed a nurse, Rachel Kovo. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The issue of violence in the health care system gained prominence in Israel in March last year after a man burned a nurse to death a Holon medical clinic.

Asher Faraj, 78, doused nurse Tova Kararo with flammable liquid and set it alight, killing her. According to the indictment, Faraj was angry at Kararo because the flu shot she had given him several days prior made him feel unwell.

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