The Knesset Finance Committee has called on all sides in the Hadassah Medical Organization’s severe financial crisis to “sit down and negotiate until white smoke appears.”
Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky, who issued the demand on Tuesday, was referring to the often intense process that leads to the election of a new pope in the Vatican.
On Tuesday night, the Histadrut labor federation stated that even though it had reached understandings about Hadassah nurses and administrative and maintenance workers in recent weeks, HMO director- general Avigdor Kaplan had “backtracked.” As a result, the staffers will hold workers’ assemblies on the Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday. If the agreements are not honored, the workers will consider more serious action, the Histadrut said.
A vote by the medical organization’s creditors on a recovery program is scheduled for Thursday, but it is not clear whether it will take place on time. The HMO and the Treasury agreed on the recovery program last week, but Hadassah physicians have yet to approve it. Slomiansky said that the voting session must not take place until there was approval by all sides.
In addition, the Treasury wants to make some changes to the agreement, including having the Finance Ministry appoint a chief accountant to supervise HMO’s financial dealings.
Health Minister Yael German said that the medical organization’s owners, the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA), had already agreed to such supervision.
The government has committed to allocating NIS 700 million to save the organization’s two hospitals and other HMO institutions, with the rest coming from HWZOA. German said that originally, the Treasury had expected to give much less, about NIS 150m.
“Much ground has already been covered, and major disagreements have been solved, so the state has agreed to inject large sums together with HWZOA. Now all sides must agree on the last issues and present it as a final agreement,” said German at the Finance Committee session, which Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also attended.
Slomiansky said that if a final agreement were not reached this week, his committee would convene again on Monday morning – “but then it will be another story, and [HMO] will be run by the person we choose.”
Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, the deputy budget director, said that the state’s investment in HMO was “unprecedented.”
The intention was not only to keep it afloat, but also to preserve the hospitals as centers of excellence in research and medical education. He said the Treasury had “given up on its dream of turning HMO over to a public health fund.”
He also welcomed the statement – which the Health Ministry regards as a baseless threat – that senior Hadassah doctors would be willing to give up their privilege of providing Sharap (private medical services) in the hospitals, and instead would work privately outside. The doctors made that statement because the recovery agreement stipulates that senior physicians would transfer 30 percent of their income from Sharap fees to the hospital, instead of the 15% to which they are committed today. The absence of Sharap at Hadassah would make it more of a public hospital, the Treasury official said.
“We welcome this, and it is good news for Jerusalemites,” he stated.
However, Sharap is still available at Hadassah’s competitor, Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
Barkat said the dispute was nearing its end and that eight different groups were involved in the negotiations. He added that he was proud that all the HMO unions had realized they had to join in and make sacrifices.
Kaplan said the medical organization had “received artificial respiration for two years. Twothirds of the concessions in the agreement are ours and those of the employees.”
But he objected to the fact that external factors would be able to decide whether HMO had to offer certain services.
Meanwhile, the Israel Cancer Association voiced its strong objection on Tuesday to HMO’s plans to close its famed Mount Scopus hospice for the terminally ill and other facilities that did not make money.
“Closing the hospice means Hadassah will lose its soul,” said ICA director-general Miri Ziv.
German commented that the ministry would not allow any unilateral closing of services, except for the cancellation of Sharap at HMO’s hospitals.