Health minister offers Hadassah hospitals a lifeline

Health minister offers Hadassah hospitals a lifeline

Debt recovery plan outlined as work slowdown at Jerusalem medical center drags on; other hospitals strike briefly in solidarity

Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem (Courtesy)
Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem (Courtesy)

As a strike of medical staff at both of Hadassah Hospital’s Jerusalem campuses entered its sixth day on Sunday, Health Minister Yael German announced a recovery plan to help the debt-ridden medical institution pull itself out of the red.

German stated that the financial 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 work stoppage if they weren’t paid their full salaries.

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.

On Sunday, 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.”

Hadassah’s doctors held a demonstration at 9:30 a.m. Sunday outside the Prime Minister’s Office, as ministers arrived for the weekly cabinet meeting. Their goal, they said, was to “put an end” to the government’s “indifference.”

The medical practitioners at Hadassah launched the 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.

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