“Our working conditions are impossible and now they want to reduce our salaries by 20 percent? We walked out of the hospital,” Registered Nurse Madlena Ashtrum, who works in the Shmuel Harofe Hospital, told Israel Today.
Across the country thousands of nurses walked out of hospitals and health clinics in protest of poor working conditions and a decision by Minister of Health Ya’akov Litzman of United Torah Judaism to drastically reduce nurses’ salaries.
“Many of us are already working 12-hours a day and barely making a minimum salary,” Ashtrum pictured in the front line of protesting nurses, told Israel Today. Ashtrum says her base salary is 5,000 Shekels a month ($1300) and that she needs to work holidays and Shabbat just to make ends meet. The Ministry of Health’s decision to reduce her salary by 20 percent will make it impossible for her to continuing working though she has worked as a nurse for more than 25 years.
“We are exhausted,” Ashtrum complains. “We work holidays and Shabbat in horrible conditions just to make our minimal salary,” she said. “Minister Litzman needs to come see the patients sleeping in the hallways, nurses working overtime because of staff shortages and filthy conditions because there are not enough cleaning crews on the job,” she said.
“The poor working conditions and heavy caseloads means that patients are not getting proper care,” Ashtrum said. “We can’t go on like this,” she said. In a statement, the nurses said that “The health and finance ministries are directly responsible for the intolerable queues in providing health care to the public and community. They create heavy burdens for the nurses and undermine their ability to provide safe and appropriate treatment to patients.”
During the strike, emergency services including surgeries will still be available as well as other essential services. But an end to the strike seems nowhere in sight as the Health Ministry want to take the nurses to court. In a statement, the Ministry said that “Representatives of the state met today with the National Nurses Union in order to prevent the anticipated harm to patients as a result of the planned strike tomorrow. Unfortunately, the talks did not reach an agreement, and the state will turn to the Labor Court tomorrow.”
Listening to nurse Ashtrum and the serious tone of a strike which has brought together nurses from hospitals and clinics across the country, it was clear that the nurses are not going to return to work until the Health Ministry rejects the reduced salary and improves the nurses’ working conditions.