Staffers at Jerusalem’s two Hadassah hospitals followed through on their threats and abandoned all departments Sunday morning. Due to failure to meet their demands of payment of their full January salaries by mid-day Sunday, they will perform only lifesaving care, the nurses’ and administrative and maintenance workers’ union said.
The workers have been paid 50 percent of the salaries for the month. Hadassah Medical Organization management, which is expecting NIS 100 million from the Finance Ministry and the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization, plans to pay them only about 90 percent of their January paychecks.
The reduced payments are to be made differentially according to how much each staffer earns, with the lowest- paid getting the most back pay.
The NIS 100m. in aid was freed up following last week’s freezing by the Jerusalem District Court of the HMO’s debts for 90 days, allowing the organization to reduce future salaries and dismiss hundreds of staff in the time the court order will be in effect. Two lawyers were also appointed as external trustees to run HMO along with its director, Avigdor Kaplan.
The HMO unions said that in 2013, management “took thousands of shekels from each employee in addition to money it took in 2010 and 2011 and still hasn’t returned it.”
The first negotiating session between the workers’ unions and management, overseen by the Histadrut, ended late Thursday night with no positive results.
“The Hadassah crisis is a result of many factors, among them problems in corporate culture, inflated staffing in comparison to other hospitals, high wages, and various discount protocols with public health funds,” Health Minister Yael German told The Jerusalem Post.
“To name a few examples, the average discount rate in state hospitals is between 17%-18%, while at Hadassah such rates average 26.4% and discounts for Maccabi Health Services reach 40%.
Meanwhile, private medical services pass on only 14% of revenues to the hospital, leaving 85% or more of the profits with the administrating doctors,” she said.
Asked to estimate HMO’s total deficit, German offered two figures.
“This is not a simple matter,” she replied. “The annual deficit is estimated to be around NIS 300 million, while the accumulated deficit reaches NIS 1.25 billion. This deficit hinders the very existence and proper functioning of the medical center.”
German insisted the long-overdue recovery plan for the capital’s two Hadassah hospitals “will not negatively impact Jerusalem’s residents with the cutting of services.
This includes the general medical services, teaching and training services to students and interns, or the hospitals’ emergency services.”
With the Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus Hadassah hospitals functioning at a minimal level, many patients are going to health fund clinics if their condition is treatable there or to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, to which more serious cases are being diverted.
This is leading to a continuing decline in HMO income, as its emergency rooms see many fewer patients and its outpatient clinics and diagnostic clinics are nearly shut.
Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition, Labor chairman Isaac Herzog, said at a Shabbat cultural event in Haifa over the weekend that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Health Minister Yael German “knew about the real financial situation of HMO for several months” but did not take action to prevent the current crisis.
“I know of at least one emergency meeting of Hadassah representatives that took place with the prime minister together with Treasury and Health Ministry officials, but their conclusions were kept from the public,” Herzog charged.
“I demand that the summation and protocols be publicized so we can understand what was done to prevent HMO’s decline and whether the freeze and the naming of special trustees was part of the plan that was prepared at the expense of hospital employees.
Hadassah is not a private hospital, but a public institution whose main dealings are dictated by the Finance and Health ministries,” he said.
HMO, Herzog continued, “serves hundreds of thousands of citizens and employs thousands of staffers. It must not be allowed to collapse. The government must take action immediately to save it and prevent unnecessary suffering to patients and continued harm to its employees.”
John Benzaquen contributed to this report.