Thousands of medical laboratory staff across Israel went on strike Sunday, demanding improvement in their terms of employment as the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmingly increased the workload.
After negotiations with the Finance Ministry had collapsed, some 2,000 hosptial, healthcare service, and public health workers announced an indefinite walkout.
The move affects all hospital activities as laboratory tests for inpatient wards and tests necessary to perform elective procedures have been halted.
Technicians will continue to provide lab work for intensive care units and perform urgent tests for emergency rooms' patients.
According to the organizers of the strike, coronavirus testing will continue as usual but those whose test results came out negative will not be informed. "Only positive results will be sent out in order to break the chain of infection."
The move essentially sabotages travel abroad, just two weeks after the country reopened its skies, since Israelis wishing to leave the country are required to present a negative coronavirus test from the previous 24 hours.
Director of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon Prof. Yaniv Scherer expressed cagey sympathy for the move due to its potential impact on patients.
"I regret every strike but when we get to the point of a strike, it means that we have failed as a system," said Scherer. "The strike has the potential to harm patients so I oppose it but nevertheless, I strongly support its goals."
"Laboratory work is critical to us, both in regular days and certainly in days of coronavirus. The laboratories are an integral part of the healthcare system, but wage conditions are not good and it is difficult to attract young people to such work."