The crisis at Hadassah’s two Jerusalem hospitals intensified on Monday as nurses and administrative employees joined doctors in a strike that has been going on since last Tuesday. Staff are protesting the fact that they have yet to receive their full January salaries amid the economic woes plaguing the hospital.
Activities at the two hospitals, at Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem, were at an almost complete standstill on Monday; only the maternity ward, intensive care, and emergency room were offering treatment, alongside wards providing critical oncology treatments and emergency dialysis.
Employees announced their intention of marching to the Finance Ministry Monday morning to demand the assistance of its head, Yair Lapid, and Health Minister Yael German, in their struggle.
On Sunday, German announced a NIS 100 million ($28 million) recovery plan to help the medical centers pull out of the red. The sum, which would consist of a NIS 50 million government loan matched by NIS 50 million from the volunteer women’s organization that founded the two hospital campuses, isn’t nearly enough to cover the hospitals’ combined NIS 1.3 billion ($367 million) deficit.
Hundreds of medical staff from the hospitals demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s Office during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday seeking an end to the government’s “indifference” and demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself become involved in the matter.
Meanwhile, doctors around the country had gone on strike between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Sunday in a show of support for Hadassah staff, and were expected to repeat their solidarity action on Monday.
The Israeli Medical Association warned on its website that if steps were not taken to rehabilitate Hadassah, “further organizational actions, including sanctions and strikes in all medical institutions to stop the severe blow to the doctors of Hadassah, will be considered.”
On Monday afternoon, the Jerusalem District Court was set to rule on the hospital administration’s request for a stay of proceedings that will lead to the appointment of a trustee. Employees are afraid that if a trustee is appointed, they will bear the brunt of the financial crisis, which they say will likely cause layoffs and compromise the quality of medical care.
German said that a stay of proceedings leading to the possible appointment of a trustee requested by the hospitals was a necessary part of the negotiation process, and would provide Hadassah three months’ time to reach agreeable terms with the Finance Ministry. She added, however, that the hospitals’ financial crisis came about as a direct result of inflated manpower, bloated salaries — a minority of doctors earn millions of shekels a month, she noted — and the failure of their private medical services to generate substantial revenues. Many of these accusations are echoed by Hadassah’s national leadership.
“There will be cutbacks, no more extravagant wages,” she told Channel 2 News. “Hadassah employees will receive salaries similar to their peers in other government hospitals.”
Medical staffs at both the Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem campuses launched an open-ended strike last Tuesday after months-long negotiations with the Finance Ministry to cover their debt collapsed.
All treatment that is not deemed urgent — including clinics, overnight hospitalizations that are not oncology-related, and elective procedures and surgeries — has been suspended. With the exception of emergency cases, the hospitals were not accepting new patients until further notice.