Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov on Sunday urged the Israel Medical Association to cancel protests planned for the next day at public hospitals and clinics, warning it would harm patients.
In a letter to the association’s president, Zion Hagay, Bar Siman-Tov said he had no issue “with the need to express protest” over the recent violence against medical staff, but warned that “the planned measures would harm patients and their daily life”
“Like you, Department of Health officials and I are very concerned about recent events and take any reports of violence in the health system very seriously. This phenomenon has seriously harmed the system and its staff and should be dealt with with a zero-tolerance policy, ’ he wrote in the letter, which was published by Channel 12 News.
Bar Siman-Tov said he would write to all department staff summarizing some of the steps that have been taken to address violence and what the department plans to do in the near future to eliminate violence entirely.
He added that he would visit the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva on Tuesday – where there was a recent incident of violence against medical staff – and invited Hagai to join him.
“Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said, stressing his “determination” to use every tool at his disposal to ensure a safe health system for patients and staff alike.
He urged Haggai to reconsider the strike. “Given that we are prepared to take action on this issue, I would ask you to refrain from taking the above steps,” Bar Siman-Tov said.
In the letter, he also expressed support for doctors and nurses who deal with violent outbursts of patients every day.
“We are living through a complex and dangerous period in which violence against medical staff has become routine,” he said. “The management of the Ministry of Health stands with you in dealing with this unacceptable phenomenon.”
The planned strike was announced by the doctors’ union on Thursday, following several recent violent incidents in Israeli hospitals.
Most recently, police last week arrested a 17-year-old patient at a women’s health center in Ramle for allegedly assaulting a doctor with brass knuckles and kicking him in the head. Doctors ordered treatment at a nearby hospital.
A day earlier, Soroka Medical Center was ordered to shut down for two hours after a pediatrician was assaulted by the parents of a 15-month-old boy who was being treated in hospital.
In announcing the general strike, the Israel Medical Association said hospitals and clinics would operate on a weekend schedule all day Monday with reduced services. The association will set up a committee to decide on special cases.
Violence against healthcare workers is not uncommon. Last June, doctors’ unions announced a two-day strike to protest violence against medical staff and the state’s alleged failure to implement plans to combat it.
Last May, the finance ministry approved a budget to hire police officers at 28 hospitals across the country following escalating violence against medical staff.