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Nurses declare nationwide strike Wednesday over violence against medical staff

Association decries alleged failure to implement plan to protect healthcare workers; says no non-urgent surgeries will be held, ICU units will have reduced staff

Doctors and nurses strike outside a Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, on August 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Doctors and nurses strike outside a Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, on August 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s nurses will go on a one-day, nationwide general strike on Wednesday, in protest of the alleged failure to immediately implement a plan to combat violence against medical staff, the country’s nurses association said Sunday.

The strike will see all nurses in Israel’s health care system operate in weekend mode, meaning no non-urgent surgeries will be performed and intensive care units will operate with reduced staff, according to a statement from the National Association of Nurses.

However, COVID-19 testing will continue as normal and most wards will be fully staffed, the statement added.

Nurses have already held strikes this year and last year over severe staff shortages amid the pandemic, resulting in additional state funding.

There have recently been multiple incidents of violence at hospitals across Israel, with warring clans and angry family members gathering outside medical centers and police being called in to assist.

Last month, a doctor and three nurses at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center were assaulted by relatives of a cancer patient from the Wadi Ara area. Staff were beaten and threatened by the family when the patient began bleeding. Guards summoned to the room were also assaulted. Staff could not treat the patient, who eventually died.

Ilana Cohen, chairwoman of the National Association of Nurses, said at the time that if the government did not take immediate action to fight such violence, “we’ll hold a strike throughout the entire health care system.”

Earlier in November, 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.

“War has broken out here,” Benny Keller, the head of Rambam’s security, told the Kan public broadcaster Wednesday. “Two or three times a week, the hospital turns into a battlefield between warring clans.”

Damaged windows are seen at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, November 15, 2021. (Flash90)

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

In another incident, an angry crowd gathered outside Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba after two shooting victims were brought there for treatment. The two men, one of whom was declared dead, were shot outside a funeral at a cemetery in Jaljulia, in what is believed to be a mob hit gone wrong.

All cases were tied to violence in the Arab community, which has spiraled in recent years and has been deemed a top priority by Israeli leaders.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has asserted that violent crime in the Arab community is finally being dealt with.

“Crime in the Arab community, especially… quantities of illegal weapons that are enough for a small army — the arsenal that has accumulated and expanded over many years, needs to be emptied,” Bennett said last month. “We are making a critical effort throughout the country against weapons and munitions.”

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