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Treasury reaches deal to fund privately owned hospitals amid virus crisis

Facing collapse, 7 leading hospitals will get $275 million in funding through end of 2021, with committee to plan for next state budget

Prof. Zeev Rotstein, CEO of Hadassah Hospital at the protest tent of Hospital directors from Israel outside the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem demanding equal budgeting from the Ministry of Finance, on January 17, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prof. Zeev Rotstein, CEO of Hadassah Hospital at the protest tent of Hospital directors from Israel outside the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem demanding equal budgeting from the Ministry of Finance, on January 17, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Finance Ministry announced Wednesday that it had reached a deal to support seven privately owned hospitals that have warned they face economic devastation due to the pressures of the coronavirus crisis.

The hospitals had warned last week that if they are not given state funding they will be forced to go into emergency mode this week and provide only life-saving services.

After a meeting Wednesday between representatives of Hadassah Hospital, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, EMMS Nazareth Hospital, Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center, Laniado Hospital, and the Saint-Louis French Hospital with Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, a deal was reached to provide them with some NIS 900 million ($276 million) in support through 2021.

A decision was also made to create a committee that will provide funding recommendations ahead of the next state budget. Israel had no budget in 2020 due to a coalition crisis.

The private hospitals say they have been severely impacted by the ongoing outbreak and are demanding funding on an equal footing with state-run hospitals, which receive billions of shekels in financing from the government.

All the country’s hospitals have been straining under the burden of the outbreak as staff try to continue regular services while also caring for virus patients in special wards that require more manpower per patient. The hospitals have at times hit or exceeded their maximum capacity.

Last week President Reuven Rivlin urged the government to aid the medical centers.

“We cannot allow our private hospitals to collapse,” Rivlin urged. “We cannot allow the coronavirus to defeat our hospitals. The budgetary discrepancy must be resolved. It must be fundamentally resolved at the level of infrastructure, and at the same time, there needs to be an immediate emergency response.”

A nurse stands in the new children’s ICU for coronavirus patients at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem on January 22, 2020. (Courtesy/Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem)

Describing private hospitals as “orphans,” Hadassah director Ze’ev Rotstein told Rivlin that the state treats the organizations “ungratefully because they have no ‘parents.'”

“When we get into economic difficulties because of this emergency, we have to ask for donations, whereas the government hospitals get payments from the state,” Rotstein said. “It’s absurd.”

“We are struggling to survive,” said Shaare Zedek director Ofer Marin. “As we face both regular patients and the coronavirus, we are collapsing. There are seven hospitals whose budget runs out every month. We aren’t paying suppliers, there’s no money for salaries. It’s in the hands of the finance minister.”

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