Nurses at Jerusalem hospitals leave posts to protest financial crisis

Nurses at Jerusalem hospitals leave posts to protest financial crisis

Opposition head Isaac Herzog says workers being hurt by government's rigid position in bailout talks

Nurses and a clown protesting outside Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital on Thursday. (photo credit: Flash90)
Nurses and a clown protesting outside Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital on Thursday. (photo credit: Flash90)

Nurses and non-medical staff at Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospitals walked off the job for three hours in protest Sunday, as a financial crisis surrounding the institution worsened amid claims that the government botched its handling of the affair.

The latest demonstrations at Hadassah Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus lasted from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., as workers protested not getting paid by the heavily encumbered institution for work last month. They then returned to the skeleton service they have been providing since starting strike action earlier this month.

Opposition head Isaac Herzog (Labor) accused the government Sunday morning of further aggravating the situation in order to boost its position.

“It appears as if the government preferred to make matters worse in order to force the medical center to accept certain conditions,” he told Israel Radio.

Employees of the two Hadassah medical centers had warned that they would intensify their strike after talks to defuse the financial crisis in which the institutions are embroiled ended without an agreement Thursday.

Labor party leader Isaac Herzog (Photo credit: Flash 90)
Labor party leader Isaac Herzog (Photo credit: Flash 90)

The employees announced Friday that the hospitals would continue operating on an emergency basis, performing only life-saving operations and distributing medicine, pending the resumption of negotiations between the trade unions, the Hadassah workers’ union and hospital directors.

Administrative and medical staff at the Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus hospitals went on strike last week after not receiving their full pay. On Wednesday, they intensified their strike, announcing that emergency care would function with a scaled-down crew and most of the hospital’s daily operations would be shut down, or carried out on limited “Shabbat schedules,” in protest.

The hospitals, administered by the Hadassah NGO, is some NIS 1.3 billion ($370 million) in debt. The government has offered NIS 50 million (14.2 million) in bailout funds, to be matched by Hadassah, but the sides have yet to come to an agreement.

The hospitals were still in a state of disarray Friday following a Jerusalem District Court decision this week to grant the hospital administration’s request for a stay of proceedings, temporarily protecting them from creditors, and to appoint two trustees to formulate a rehabilitation plan for the hospitals.

The decision was a victory for the medical centers. For the next 90 days, they will be able to continue operations under their current management, led by current director Dr. Avigdor Kaplan, but their creditors will not be able to collect on any debts. Hospital employees will, on average, receive 90 percent of their salaries.

However, following the decision administrative and medical staff intensified their strikes and were only performing emergency procedures on Wednesday.

“We’re prepared to sit down and negotiate tonight, but we won’t do it so long as the full salaries of the workers haven’t been paid,” Ilana Cohen, head of the nurses’ union, was quoted by Maariv saying.

Meanwhile Friday, Health Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid) announced a probe of the crisis, to be headed by former Finance Ministry budgeting official Avi Gabai.

“The severe crisis in which Hadassah is embroiled requires a thorough investigation,” German said in a statement.

“It is essential to identify the problems and difficulties at the heart of the processes that led to the crisis,” she added.

She said the committee would not only investigate the ongoing crisis, but also work to monitor hospitals around Israel to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

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