Nurses Return to Work after 1-Day Strike following Deal to Resolve Staffing & Equipment Shortages

Nurses throughout Israel returned to work Tuesday morning, July 21, ending a one-day strike. The Nurses Union and the Finance Ministry reached an agreement at midnight on Monday to end a general strike that began earlier in the day over labor shortages at Israel’s medical centers. The agreement will see the addition of 2,000 temporary nursing positions and 400 doctors’ positions in the public healthcare system and the hiring of additional administrative and para-medical personnel. A team will be formed to agree on permanent staffing numbers within a month.

The sides also agreed to have nurses work in a “capsule system” in which they will work during set shifts to prevent spreading of the coronavirus. A final decision has yet to be made on salaries that will be paid for nurses who are forced to self-quarantine after being exposed to a corona virus carrier.

Striking nurses protested on July 20, 2020. The yellow placard held aloft reads "Positions are needed for the Public Health System."

Striking nurses protested on July 20, 2020. The yellow placard held aloft reads “Positions are needed for the Public Health System.” (Photo: Mirsham)

The Treasury also agreed to spend billions of shekels to boost COVID-19 testing towards winter and to purchase more flu shots and equipment to improve health maintenance organizations’ telemedicine capabilities.

Earlier Monday, nurses had launched a general strike after final talks with the Treasury seeking to prevent the strike failed, saying work force shortages have made it impossible to continue their work. On Sunday, a meeting intended to prevent the emergency strike finished with inconclusive results The meeting took place between Finance Ministry between director-general Keren Terner Eyal and other ministry officials and chair of the Nurses’ Union Ilana Cohen. According to an announcement by the union, the discussion dealt with “the severe shortages and impossible loads placed on the shoulders of nurses.”

Nurses across Israel also went on strike last summer, protesting what they said at the time were poor working conditions, heavy caseloads and low standards of care.

Related: Nurses Launch Nationwide Strike over Deep, Chronic Staff Shortages