Three Hadassah doctors questioned in bribery probe

Three Hadassah doctors questioned in bribery probe

Move follows arrest of two men alleged to have taken money from patients and used it to pay off doctors to shorten waiting times

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Aerial view of Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, March 17, 2014. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Aerial view of Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, March 17, 2014. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

Several doctors at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem have been questioned under caution as part of a police probe into a cash-for-care scandal.

Police are calling for anyone who has been asked to pay privately for a shorter waiting time at the hospital to submit a complaint at their nearest police station.

Officers from the Jerusalem Police fraud division arrested two men in their 20s — one from Jerusalem, the other from Beitar Illit southwest of the capital — for allegedly taking cash from patients in exchange for promises to cut waiting times and facilitate “private medical services” for patients at Hadassah’s southwest Jerusalem campus, the Ynet news site reported.

According to the Walla site, police were first alerted to the activity by an officer in Hadassah’s security staff.

The main suspect in the case, identified by police as Netanel Yaakov Parush, is reportedly a well-known figure in the Haredi community as a “fixer” who can arrange private or expedited medical services at Hadassah in exchange for payment, saying he was acting on behalf of an unnamed well-known rabbi.

Police suspect that one of the two operated within the hospital, while the other was sent to pick up cash from patients in envelopes.

Ambulances outside the entrance to the emergency room at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, December 03, 2014. (Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)
Ambulances outside the entrance to the emergency room at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, December 3, 2014. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)

Walla reported that expedited treatment could cost patients between NIS 4,000 ($1,060) and NIS 6,000 ($1,590).

Officers believe the operation has been going on for several months, and that many thousands of shekels have exchanged hands.

Police are now asking how the suspects managed to actually shorten waiting times.

Three doctors questioned in the case denied receiving benefits and said patients were moved up the line on the basis of medical need alone. The patients who paid to be moved up the waiting list, all three insisted, were victims of fraud.

The doctors were released after questioning.

The investigation is expected to see the questioning of large numbers of doctors and other hospital employees.

Prof. Zeev Rotstein, Hadassah’s director general, vowed on Thursday to fire any doctors found to have received cash in exchange for expedited medical care.

“If this happened, these doctors will have no home at Hadassah,” he told Channel 2.

Parush and his alleged accomplice are suspected of fraud and bribery.

Parush’s remand was extended Thursday for three days, while the second suspect was released under restrictive conditions.

Parush is also being investigated for alleged blackmail and threats linked to the case, after he was recorded telling a patient, “if you don’t pay me, I’ll do what I understand.”

Attorney Shalom Ben Shabbat, who represented Parush at the remand hearing Thursday, said police were already five months into the investigation, and had yet to provide compelling evidence that his client was obstructing the probe. He called on the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to release him. Parush, he said, was not in good health, having suffered a stroke a few months before.

Attorney David Koriat, who represented the police, noted the gravity of the accusations leveled against Parush. “This is about the exploitation of sick people in very serious situations, who are ready to do anything for hope.”

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