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Israeli nurses strike over staffing shortages amid second coronavirus wave

In addition to staffing shortages, hundreds of Israel's nurses are in quarantine [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 July, 2020

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Israeli nurses launched a strike in protest of staff shortages after failed negotiations with the finance ministry.
Israeli nurses went on strike on Monday to protest staff shortages amid a surge in coronavirus cases, Israeli media reported.

Israel's National Association of Nurses launched its industrial action Monday morning following failed negotiations with Israel's finance ministry on Sunday.

The nurses say a lack of manpower has made it impossible for them to work effectively as Israel deals with a second wave of novel coronavirus infections.

In addition to the shortages, Israel's health ministry said around 813 nurses are in quarantine, according to The Times of Israel.

No additional staffing efforts have been made despite hospitals opening new Covid-19 wards, the Times of Israel reported.

According to Haaretz, Ilana Cohen, chairwoman of the nurses' union, stated nurses have no choice but to "take matters into our own hands and prevent a health system collapse this coming winter".

In a letter written last week to heads of hospitals, health maintenance organisations and the health ministry, Cohen said the Covid-19 outbreak "solidified and worsened" a longstanding shortage of manpower and resources in Israel's healthcare system.

Despite this, Cohen wrote, Israel's health ministry has "continued to place the burden of hundreds of regulations and tasks on the shoulders of the nurses - and on the backs of the patients".

Cohen added that dealing with the coronavirus outbreak will be an "impossible mission" without an immediate creation of hundreds of new nursing jobs.

During Sunday's meeting, Israel's finance ministry proposed 1,000 new positions in addition to 600 positions already approved from March until the end of 2021, Haaretz reported. The union requested a long-term solution beyond 2021 to create new and permanent jobs.

The meeting ended without an agreement.

The striking nurses will not work on Monday and will operate on an emergency basis going forward, The Times of Israel reported.

Operation rooms and inpatient hospital wards will work with reduced staff as they do on weekends, according to Haaretz.

Intensive care departments, neonatal intensive care units, maternity rooms, dialysis, oncology and fertility departments will also operate with less staff during the nurses' strike.

Coronavirus testing and treatment, however, will continue with full staffing.

Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein expressed solidarity with the striking nurses, stating the shortage of manpower is an "ongoing problem".

Israel had won early praise for its virus containment efforts, but cases have surged since a broad re-opening began in May.

Earlier this month, Israel's director of public health services resigned, blasting her superiors for ignoring her advice and steering Israel's virus response off course.

Various restrictions have been re-imposed since the surge in cases, including the closure of venues, clubs, bars, gyms and public pools.

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