Avigdor Kaplan ­ a 73-year-old economist, businessman, and insurance executive ­ has been named the ninth director-general of the financially troubled Hadassah Medical Organization, the organization's chairwoman Esther Dominicini announced on Wednesday.

Kaplan, who is not a physician but served for five years in the '90s as director-general of Clalit Health Services, is Hadassah's fourth director-general to be appointed in the last 13 years, and the oldest ever.

Hadassah ideally wanted to continue its practice of hiring a physician to run the organization ­ which is owned by the Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization of America ­ but such an appointment seemed unlikely given the more than NIS 200 million deficit of the organization, which encompasses the two University Medical Centers in Jerusalem, the medical faculty, nursing school and other institutions.

"No serious physician was willing to take on the administrative job given the financial problems of Hadassah, which faces dismissals of staffers but probably not physicians or nurses," a source in the public health system said.

Earlier this year, the previous director-general ­ former Maccabi Health Services director-general Prof. Ehud Kokia ­ resigned suddenly after 13 months in the position because, he said, he was overwhelmed by the financial problems facing the institution.

The Israel Medical Association has threatened a strike over the fact that for the first time, Hadassah will not be headed by a physician. But Hadassah said that in the near future, a physician would be named "medical director" below Kaplan. Sources suggested that Kaplan would serve in an interim position for the next couple of years until the organization stabilized financially.

With Hadassah¹s announcement, Kaplan resigned from his position as president and CEO at Clall Insurance Pensions & Finance Group, where he has worked since 1997. He was also the deputy chief executive officer at Israel Aerospace Industries and a board member of many companies.

Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization of America president Marcie Natan said that Kaplan was a manager of world stature and is coming at a time when his management abilities are needed to heal Hadassah's financial problems.

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