Galilee Medical Center

Israel’s national nurses’ union launched a strike over working conditions and salaries on Tuesday.

Talks with Health Ministry representatives and the Treasury collapsed 24 hours earlier.

The walk out hit hospitals, clinics and health centers across the country.

Operating theaters and wards had announced they would offer essential services only.

“We are not slaves,” said Edward Hadad, Association of Nurses at Galilee Medical Center chairman in Nahariya.

“The fight is over a chronic shortage of nurses that has been going on for years.”

Hadad added a shortage of staff was behind the action.

“Nurses have to do more tasks that keep them away from the patients,” he said.

“More than one thousand nurses work in the hospitals but here we are still short of 145 staff.”

Nurses protested outside the Health Ministry after the breakdown in talks on Monday night in Jerusalem.

Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, Health Ministry director-general said the ministry would examine “unnecessary” tasks.

“We are constantly working to make the job more pleasant and less of a burden, but we are adamant that at the end of the day, these tasks must be done,” he said.

“We are aware of the hard work nurses do. This is a physically debilitating job with a reality of ever-increasing workloads. We must end this industrial dispute in a peaceful way and not escalate it.”

He added, “This strike is unnecessary. We have been forced to go to the Labour Court to resolve the conflict.”

Deputy Health Ministry Yaakov Litzman said the strike would cause “unnecessary suffering” to patients and would ask the Labour Court to issue an injunction ordering striking nurses to return to work.

By Leah Waxler