The Israeli Doctors' Union announced on Thursday the start of a comprehensive strike across the healthcare system in protest at the increasing number of cases of violence against medical staff in hospitals and other medical institutions. The relevant authorities, it is alleged, have not addressed and dealt with the issue.
Official statistics from Israel's Ministry of Health indicate that physical and verbal abuse of medical staff in hospitals and community clinics happens daily. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 110 attacks and cases of physical violence against medical staff and 1,675 cases of verbal abuse, threats or damage to hospital property.
Government hospitals and community clinics have witnessed a 24-hour strike in protest at the violence in hospitals. The General Workers' Union in Israel (Histadrut) had threatened to escalate the strike in the event that the demands of the medical staff to find solutions to the violence are not met.
The doctors will work at a reduced capacity, on a weekend schedule, as their union is demanding that steps must be taken to limit attacks on medical staff. They suggest a police presence in all emergency rooms; increased security systems in hospitals and clinics; 24/7 security guards in closed departments; and amendments to legislation. The union wants attacks on medical staff to be regarded as serious as an attack on a police officer in uniform.
"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," said Professor Zion Hagay, the head of the Doctors' Union. "As long as the Israeli government takes no immediate and necessary steps to increase the personal security of medical staff, we will not hesitate to increase protest action."
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz agreed that medical staff should not have to contend with bullying and violence. "A nurse engaged in saving lives is not a police officer and should not have to fear being hit. We are not seeing any deterrence measures to stop attacks on medical staff, nor have we seen any charges against those who attack medical staff or destroy hospital property. Hence, protection and immunity cannot be offered to staff in this manner."
Horowitz referred the matter to the Israeli Attorney General, Gali Baharav-Miara, and demanded that she exhaust all judicial measures against those who break the law in order to rein in the violence against medical staff in hospitals, medical centres and clinics.
He intends to put the matter up for discussion in the government, and will make a request during the next government session to initiate a plan to reduce the violence, focusing on stationing police in hospitals.