“The government has to take responsibility for the Hadassah Medical Organization, but in exchange it must get authority” to make decisions, Health Minister Yael German told the Knesset plenum on Tuesday.
She added that any funds given to bail out the financially shaky institution and its two hospitals “will come at the expense of the public health system.”
Although the Knesset is in recess, a special session was held on the subject at the initiative of Speaker Yuli Edelstein, after 25 MKs demanded it. Their petition stated that the threat to HMO of being dismantled “is a sword pointed at the heart of an exemplary medical institution and tens of thousands of people who need it” daily.
German, speaking on behalf of the government, said that many charges have been made “out of concern” for HMO, “but I fear that not all the facts are known. I am involved in the details of negotiations not just once a day but several times daily.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been informed and is interested, and so is Finance Minister Yair Lapid, of course. But when one gives a team the job of negotiation, they have to have the authority to carry it out until the end.”
The health minister added that the Treasury and her ministry had put together a recovery program for HMO with the aim of stabilizing it and its two university medical centers so that the crisis does not repeat itself in another two or three years.
“We want this to be the last crisis. It’s not a matter of giving NIS 50 million, more or less. The government plans to invest hundreds of millions of shekels targeted for the whole public health system which you [MKs] have said is starving for funds. But giving money to Hadassah [which is a public health institution but owned by the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America] means that it will be at the expense of the public health system.
Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
German continued, “We understand that we must help, because the government and I know that HMO cannot be dismantled. It must be put on its own two feet. But it needs a long-term plan in which all sides are involved. This time, the government must supervise it.
Today, we don’t have the authority to see its financial records or to demand the dismissal of administrators, appoint a board of directors or dismantle the board. This must be changed.”
She added, however, that the courts declared a freeze on HMO’s financial activities, so if the judge says that no agreements have been reached, then it would be dismantled. “We will do all we can that it will not come to that,” said the minister.
Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen said the danger of collapse of HMO is one of the most unbelievable occurrences in the history of the state. “For over 65 years it has treated Holocaust survivors, and this incredible institution gives service with the greatest sensitivity. On the one hand, the state invests millions in Holocaust survivors, and this is right... HMO workers should not have to say thank you, but we should tell them thank you.”
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon said the National Health Insurance Law is not being implemented as it should and that the HMO process reflects the system’s ills.
Combining private and public health services in one institution leads to corruption, and they cannot coexist. Hospital directors do not know what is going on in their own institutions,” the lawmaker said.
Likud Beytenu MK Reuven Rivlin said he made a proposal not as part of the opposition or the coalition, but “as a Jerusalemite. We Jerusalem MKs know that if, God forbid, something happens to use or our families, the only help is one of the two hospital institutions in the city [HMO and Shaare Zedek Medical Center]. We are very anxious and demand the health minister’s immediate intervention.
The Hadassah women must continue to be part of the system. Jerusalem is not only for Jerusalemites but for all Israelis, Jews as well as Palestinian Arabs together.
The option of dismantling HMO must be dropped completely,” Rivlin insisted.
The Histadrut labor federation declared a work dispute over HMO’s crisis on April 24 and can legally impose strike measures two weeks after that, starting on May 8.
The Jerusalem District Court has demanded that a solution be reached about the same time.