Mediation flop likely to force High Court into ruling on Hadassah dispute

July 3, 2017 20:01

Six senior oncologists, three oncology residents, and the parents of the children who left the department insist that a new department be opened at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

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Hadassah Hospital

Hadassah Hospital demonstation. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The weeklong mediation in the dispute over the Hadassah Medical Organization’s Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Department seems likely to fail. If it does, the issue will return to the hands of the High Court of Justice.

Despite long hours of intensive talks with all sides in the dispute, former Supreme Court justice Elyakim Rubinstein has thus far been unable to get the nine doctors who resigned to agree to return to Hadassah.

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Rubinstein is due to report back to the court on Tuesday morning. If he gives up, the court will be forced to rule in the dispute.

The doctors resigned over disagreements with the policies and behavior of HMO director-general Prof. Zeev Rotstein.

The six senior oncologists, three oncology residents – along with the parents of the children who left the department – insist that a new department be opened at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who appointed Rotstein more than 18 months ago, has refused to explain his adamant opposition to Shaare Zedek opening a new department, despite the Hadassah physicians and patients leaving or moving en masse to the competing hospital.

But the minister has strongly objected to dividing the patients between Shaare Zedek and Hadassah, arguing in a letter to Rubinstein that such a split would cause “grave danger” to the quality of treatment to children with cancer because each doctor would have too few patients. It would also cause “chaos and lack of control” for the ministry, which is the regulator, Litzman said, adding that “most senior professionals” objected to such a move, but no names were given.

A ministry statement denounced “a campaign of terrible incitement against senior ministry officials and the Health Ministry” and called on all sides to “show public responsibility and change the difficult and heated dialogue.”

The ministry proposed several ideas, including opening an additional department at Petah Tikva’s Schneider Children’s Hospital and transporting children there for treatment. But parents have said it would be ridiculous to force them to travel when they need urgent care instead of making it possible for them to be treated in Jerusalem.

Another idea was to establish a new department at Hadassah University Medical Center on Mt. Scopus, but the pediatrics department there is headed by Prof. Eitan Kerem, who has attacked the nine doctors for “abandoning their patients.”

The parents of the children with cancer said they “began participating in the mediation process with guarded optimism” and agreed to halt a hunger strike by 12 parents and supporters in deference to Rubinstein.

But over time, they said, they became seriously disappointed.

“We brought five different proposals to the table, and all of them were rejected by Litzman due solely to ego and not objective reasons. Why is the ministry doing everything except to open a department at Shaare Zedek? Why is he unreasonably entrenched in this position?” Carrying signs saying, “Litzman’s ego will kill our children,” parents and supporters held a vigil outside the health minister’s Jerusalem home. Litzman sent bottles of cold water and instructed ministry staffers to set up shady coverings so no one would become dehydrated in the searing heat.

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