Parents of children suffering from cancer blocked the main road into Jerusalem with hospital beds Tuesday to protest a court ruling amid an ongoing spat between doctors and management at the capital’s only child blood cancer ward.
On Tuesday, the High Court of Justice ruled that parents, doctors and management at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, must enter mediation, rejecting a petition by the parents that the physicians and nurses be allowed to set up an alternative ward at another Jerusalem hospital.
Dozens of parents and protesters made their way from Sacher Park, where parents have set up a protest tent complete with beds for their sick children, to the Chords Bridge that spans the gateway to the capital.
The protesters briefly blocked the road with hospital beds on wheels. Police removed the protesters who continued to demonstrate at the side of the road.
Demonstrators chanted against Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who had refused to allow the second pediatric blood cancer ward to open.
The protest followed demonstrations outside the Supreme Court building as judges issued their ruling in the case.
In an emotion-filled day at the court, the judges suggested that mediation to resolve the ongoing dispute at the Jerusalem hospital be led by former supreme court justice Elyakim Rubinstein.
Although the hospital’s management agreed, parents of the sick children rejected the offer, leading the judges to order the sides to begin the mediation process on Wednesday.
Former doctors at the hemato-oncology division, who would also be party to the mediation, had not yet responded to the judge’s offer.
Parents called Hadassah head Zeev Rotstein “evil” as he left the courtroom after the hearing, and also accosted the director general of the Health Ministry.
The crisis was set off by a management plan that emerged last fall to take a child bone marrow transplant expert, Dr. Paulina Stefansky, from the unit without consulting Prof. Michael Weintraub — who previously headed the unit before resigning in March — and put her in charge of an adult transplant unit in another building.
The idea was to use available beds in the adult unit to treat non-Israeli child “medical tourists” from the Palestinian territories and the former Soviet Union — who would pay high fees for transplants that would help replenish Hadassah’s depleted coffers — and have the already overstretched team from the children’s unit care for them, along with their Israeli patients in the children’s department.
Tuesday’s hearing came after the parents of the sick children petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding it approve the opening of a new department in the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, fire Rotstein, and order legal proceedings against him and Litzman.
The state has voiced its opposition to the petition, saying that it would not channel public funds into opening another cancer department in Jerusalem when the infrastructure already exists at Hadassah. The state further said that the solution was to immediately hold negotiations between the two sides, during which the doctors who resigned would resume work at Hadassah.
Before the doctors’ resignation, the children’s department had six doctors and three interns caring for 160 new child cancer cases a year – the same size team that was caring for 120 children four years ago. The figures, according to a Channel 10 investigation, compared with 13 doctors and four trainees for 170 new cases annually in the child cancer department at Sheba Hospital, outside Tel Aviv, and 15 doctors and 5 interns for 160 new cases a year at the Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petah Tikva.
Most of the children who were being treated at the unit before the crisis erupted have moved to other hospitals in other cities at the recommendation of the doctors who resigned.