Although Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Organization is financially in critical condition, “Hadassah will not collapse,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said on Saturday night.
Its two major medical centers are too big and important to be shut down, as they provide 60 percent of the capital’s tertiary (specialized consultative) medical care, perform medical research and educate medical students, he said on Channel 2’s Meet the Press.
In sympathy with Hadassah’s thousands of employees – who last week drastically reduced the institution’s functioning, to a Shabbat schedule, because they received only half their January salaries – the Israel Medical Association is on Sunday organizing workers’ assemblies between 10 a.m. and noon in all of the country’s public hospitals. This means that only lifesaving activities will be carried out during this period.
Hadassah’s nurses as well as administrative and maintenance workers have threatened, like their doctor colleagues, to work according to Shabbat schedules until their wages are paid in full.
Nurses Union chief Ilana Cohen said her members had no choice but to stop working if they were not fully paid.
HMO administrative and maintenance workers union chief Amnon Bruchian said it was unfair that the weakest employees should have to suffer.
His union will hold a worker’s assembly between 10 a.m. and noon in the courtyard near the Mother and Child Building on the Ein Kerem campus.
The Histadrut labor federation said on Saturday night that unless HMO’s employees receive their full salary immediately, “there will not be negotiations and the hospitals will strike from Monday.”
Lapid added in his TV interview that HMO – owned by the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA) – must undergo a painful recovery program.
With an accumulated deficit of NIS 1.3 billion, salaries paid late, supplies of equipment and even food running out and bills mounting every month, the HMO management is initiating drastic action.
On Friday, it asked the Jerusalem District Court to freeze all activities this week so it will not have to pay debts. The running of Hadassah will then be turned over to an external trustee – lawyer Dr.
Lipa Meir – who will make decisions, along with HMO director-general Avigdor Kaplan. This enfuriated HMO physicians, who have charged that such a trustee would make unilateral decisions based only on economic considerations and reduce doctors’ salaries and conditions even more.
Such court action would make it impossible for banks and suppliers owed money by HMO to demand their money immediately.
The Finance Ministry said on Friday that it and the Health Ministry, “in coordination with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, agreed to help HMO to ensure its regular activity for the benefit of patients. Because of the importance of Hadassah to the health system, and with the application of the management to freeze assets, the state will give the hospitals NIS 50 million along with NIS 50m. more from HWZOA.”
The Treasury said that “for several years, HMO has had run deficits that brought about its financial decline, and recently, even the closing of credit lines from the banks and suppliers.”
The Finance Ministry added that it has a surplus of workers and pays higher salaries than other hospitals.
The Finance Ministry has criticized the construction of Hadassah’s luxurious new hospitalization tower, which the HWZOA initiated and carried out for its 100th anniversary two years ago, for extra maintenance costs of millions of shekels monthly beyond what the old wards cost.
The Treasury has been criticized, however, for forcing HMO to sign a “capping agreement” in which management has to give the four health funds a 26% discount on all medical services it supplies their patients. Government hospitals give a 16% discount to the health funds.
Hadassah physicians say they are aware of HMO’s dire financial straits and are willing to shoulder part of the burden, but that “we are not responsible for its deficits.”
They maintain that every time they agree to financial concessions, the Treasury demands more, including a permanent reduction in their salaries and conditions and not only in the interim.
HWZOA issued a plea to its supporters on Friday to write letters of support to its website and Facebook pages.
“Financial problems as a result of the crisis in the national health system have beset the hospitals and have resulted in an operational deficit. A recovery plan has been outlined to reduce the deficit and increase revenue. At the same time, Hadassah hospitals have never been profit-first institutions while accepting patients with the most serious diseases and catastrophic injuries.... The billions of dollars and enormous efforts were given with love and with no strings attached. We are proud to be partners in the achievements of Israeli medicine. Your support is critical. An Israel without the excellence of Hadassah is unimaginable,” it said.
The women’s organization added: “We call on the people of Israel to join with us in raising our voices to guarantee the future of Hadassah and Jerusalem as a beacon of medical excellence. We need the government of Israel to partner with HMO and HWZOA to ensure an immediate positive resolution to the crisis.”