Medical staff at Hadassah’s two Jerusalem hospitals threatened to begin a full strike on Monday unless they receive the remaining half of their unpaid January wages by midnight.
Staff at both hospitals had already entered their sixth day of partial strike action on Sunday as Health Minister Yael German announced a recovery plan to help the medical centers pull themselves out of the red.
Hundreds of medical staff from the hospitals demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s Office during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday to “put an end” to the government’s “indifference” and to demand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself become involved in the matter.
As the demonstrators called for intervention by the prime minister, doctors around the country joined in solidarity with those at Hadassah, with medical workers at all of Israel’s hospitals switching to a reduced, weekend-style schedule between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.
The Israeli Medical Association also 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.”
German stated that the financial recovery package to the hospitals, which are facing a combined NIS 1.3 billion ($367 million) deficit and a looming threat of bankruptcy, would include a NIS 50 million government loan matched by NIS 50 million from the volunteer women’s organization which founded the two hospital campuses, Israel Radio reported.
She said that the 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 and the failure of their private medical services to generate substantial revenues — an accusation echoed by Hadassah’s national leadership.
The deal could infuse NIS 100 million ($28.36 million) that will go toward paying salaries, but the sum isn’t sufficient, and employees on Saturday night threatened to expand their strike to a full-on halt in operations if they weren’t paid their full salaries.
During the demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Office, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein met with representatives from the medical staff, Israel Radio reported. Edelstein said that accusations as to who is responsible for the crisis should be put aside and efforts instead focused on preventing the hospitals from closing down.
Last Tuesday, after negotiations with the Finance Ministry to cover their debt collapsed, medical staffs at both the Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem campuses launched an open-ended strike that put doctors on holiday schedules and froze care on all noncritical cases.
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.
The medical practitioners at Hadassah launched their protest after months-long discussions with the Finance Ministry to cover the debt didn’t yield results.
Fearful that the government would turn to the courts to request that a trustee be appointed to manage its affairs, the hospital has applied to the Jerusalem District Court for a stay of proceedings.
Employees warn 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.