Treasury sends NIS 100 million to hospitals in bid to end partial strike

But hospital chiefs say they will continue to only perform life-saving procedures until a full agreement is reached

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman attends a cabinet meeting at the Knesset on June 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman attends a cabinet meeting at the Knesset on June 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman announced Thursday that the Treasury transferred NIS 100 million ($31 million) to public hospitals, which have been protesting the government’s failure to provide adequate healthcare funding throughout the pandemic.

Liberman said the hospitals will receive additional funds when they meet certain criteria laid out by the ministry.

“We will continue to support the healthcare system and enable life alongside the coronavirus,” Liberman tweeted.

Since Wednesday morning, Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital and both hospitals in the Hadassah system; Bnei Brak’s Mayanei Yeshua; Netanya’s Laniado; and Nazareth’s St. Vincent de Paul, Holy Family Hospital, and Nazareth Hospital, have only been performing life-saving procedures and have refused to admit new patients from the Magen David Adom emergency service.

In response to Liberman’s announcement, the hospital directors issued a statement saying that they would not end their strike until a full agreement is reached.

“This is a major failure of the Health Ministry, which has delayed the criteria determination and has impaired the functioning of the hospitals. The finance and health ministries want to suffocate us, and not allow us to develop and plan for next year,” the directors said in a statement.

Hospital directors hold a press conference protesting the lack of funding for the Israeli healthcare system, in Jerusalem, August 22, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/ Flash90)

“Without a defined and clear budget, it is impossible to purchase equipment, recruit doctors and nurses, or run a hospital. Therefore, the emergency format will continue indefinitely, until the full agreement is completed,” they added.

Israel’s seven so-called “public” hospitals are open to all patients and rely mostly on state funds, though they are privately owned.

In a Tuesday letter to Horowitz and Magen David Adom emergency service director Eli Bin, the hospital directors accused health authorities of failing to live up to their budgetary commitments and said they do not have the funding to provide adequate care.

“We would like to inform you that due to the structural deficit imposed on us by the state and due to its non-compliance with agreements made with public hospitals, the seven hospitals [we run] will be unable to function fully and provide adequate care to patients due to lack of budgeting,” the hospital directors wrote in the letter.

Hadassah Ein Kerem team members wearing safety gear, as they work in a coronavirus ward of the Hadassah Ein Kerem medical center in Jerusalem, on August 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Tonight, the prime minister is taking off [for the United States], leaving us to fight the coronavirus with a gun without bullets. We expect him to intervene in this crisis,” the hospital directors added. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett left Israel for the US on Tuesday for a meeting with US President Joe Biden.

The hospital administrators claim that the NIS 300 million ($93 million) promised by the state to public hospitals has not yet been transferred. Additionally, a clause in their agreement with the Finance Ministry promising an additional NIS 55 million ($17 million) each month that the pandemic continues has also not been kept since July, they claim.

In June, the same hospitals boycotted a government event honoring the health system for COVID-fighting efforts, accusing the state of financially abandoning them.

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