The High Court of Justice on Tuesday ordered the sides involved in the crisis at Hadassah Hospital’s children’s cancer ward to enter mediation in order to resolve the dispute, despite the opposition of parents of the unit’s patients.
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.
“You don’t manage Rotstein; Rotstein manages you. You lied to us,” the parents yelled at Moshe Bar Siman Tov, according to the Haaretz daily.
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 to 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.
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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 Health Minister Yaakov 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.
To raise awareness for their protest, parents of the sick children, most of whom have supported the doctors from the outset, set up a protest tent in a Jerusalem park several weeks ago, complete with beds for their sick children. Some parents also launched a hunger strike on Sunday.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.