As of midnight Sunday night, Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem has been turning away women in labor due to an extended labor dispute. Pregnant women already admitted were receiving full treatment.
Hospital staff was working to transfer premature babies and sick elderly patients to other hospitals.
As a result of the financial crisis at the hospital, the 600
staffers received only 70 percent of their September salaries and there was no
evidence that they would receive their October wages. In protest, workers put the hospital on its limited Shabbat schedule a week and a half ago. The emergency room has not been accepting patients since Tuesday.
The Labor Court is set to rule on an injunction against the workers later on Monday.
staffers voiced severe criticism on Sunday of Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov
Litzman, who they said has taken only partial and delayed action to save the
nearly 170-year-old hospital, which caters largely to the haredi community in
the north and center of Jerusalem. Before the end of November, the hospital’s
medical negligence insurance policies are due to expire, and “no one would be
crazy enough to treat patients or be treated at the hospital without it,” one
Senior ministry officials have prepared a “contingency
plan” that will find beds for all the 100 patients who remain at the hospital;
only half of the beds are occupied.
A total of 12 women gave birth on
Sunday, and the neonatal intensive care unit has over a dozen premature infants.
Due to the shortage of neonatal intensive care beds, it has been very difficult
for the ministry to find other beds for premature babies in other hospitals
around the country.
Some Bikur Cholim staffers have resigned but have not
left yet because they must give advance notice. One administrator said: “Almost
every – except the really idealistic and care about the hospital – who is really
worth has already left.”
The staff is eagerly waiting to see whether
Shaare Zedek Medical Center, which is in good financial health, is ready to take
over Bikur Cholim, which over the years has suffered poor management and
failures by the voluntary organization that ran it. But Shaare Zedek is not
ready to jump in immediately, even after the Treasury invited it to make a bid
to take over Bikur Cholim. “It would be harder to resuscitate the hospital once
it shuts down than to save it before it stops breathing,” said one senior
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to this report.