The board of directors of Hadassah Medical Center and the Hadassah woman’s organization has informed the Hebrew University of Jerusalem that as of January 1, 2021, it plans to stop funding all five of the university’s medical schools as it has done under agreements in place since 1963.
In a letter dated March 6, Hadassah-the Woman’s Zionist Organization of America Inc. national president Ellen Hershkin and Hadassah Medical Organization director general Zeev Rotstein wrote to Prof. Asher Cohen, the president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, that “in light of the many changes of circumstances which have occurred over the years, the continuation of such longstanding agreements in their current form has, as you are aware, become increasingly untenable for us.”
Under these agreements, Hadassah finances all of the costs of the five medical schools in which Hadassha Medical Center is a partner. Hebrew University does not take part in the financing of these schools, except for a very small amount that does not help cover the budget deficit of these organizations, senior officials at Hadassah told The Times of Israel. Hadassah Medical Center continued financing these schools even after it entered into a financial crisis and set out a recovery plan with the government in 2014, which envisages Hadassah cutting costs and taking efficiency steps in return for an injection of state funds until the end of December 2020.
The university, meanwhile, pockets the students’ fees and the financial support provided by the Council for Higher Education to these schools, senior officials at Hadassah said.
In every other public hospital in Israel that works with universities, it is the university that finances the medical schools and not the hospital, the officials said.
The lack of participation of the university in the funding of the schools under the current agreement with Hadassah has led to a budget deficit of some NIS 30 million ($8.3 million) a year. In addition, a collective agreement between Hadassah and the academic staff has led to an additional deficit of NIS 43 million per year.
A mediation process is underway between Hadassah and the Israel Medical Association to reduce these costs. If this mediation fails, Hadassah will be forced to announce the cancellation of the collective agreement from January 1, 2021, the officials said.
Hershkin and Rotstein said in the letter that they are giving the university “notice of the termination of the Affiliation Agreements” with respect to all five medical schools effective January 1, 2021.
Ties with the university can be resumed under new, updated agreements, the officials said. They emphasized that Hadassah aims to continue to be an academic hospital based on teaching, research and advanced clinical treatments, and if its agreements with the Hebrew University are not successfully adjusted, it will enter into agreements with other universities in Israel.
The five schools — of medicine, dental medicine, nursing, public health and occupational therapy — are all based in Jerusalem. The officials added that students that are already enrolled in the schools are not expected to be hurt by the developments.
Copies of the letter were sent to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, and other officials.
A spokeswoman for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.