The ultra-Orthodox management of Jerusalem’s financially troubled Bikur Cholim
Hospital has unilaterally cut the salaries of all 610 workers by 30 percent,
inducing many of them to look for another place of work, according to medical
director Dr. Raphael Pollack.
The Jerusalem Post learned on Thursday that
of the 210 beds in the institution – one of the oldest hospitals in the country
– only about 100 of them are occupied by patients. These are mostly in
obstetrics/gynecology, with some in internal medicine.
In addition, the
emergency room is still functioning.
Most of the hospital’s patients are
haredim who live in the neighborhood north of Jaffa Road.
Pollack was due
to hold an emergency meeting with Finance Ministry officials including Deputy
Minister Yitzhak Cohen and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman last night to
discuss the emergency.
Litzman wants the city’s Shaare Zedek Medical
Center to run Bikur Cholim as a branch in the center of town, but SZMC
director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy is taking a very careful look at
the deteriorating hospital and is wary of it causing harm to his own flourishing
medical center. Halevy reportedly told Health Ministry officials that he needs
until the spring before deciding, and he told his own board of governors meeting
recently that the chance that SZMC would take it over was “just
The government has already agreed to finance the cost of running
the hospital, but the amount SZMC has been offered has not been made
The Hadassah Medical Organization, which has its own serious
financial problems, is eager to take over the running of Bikur Cholim, but
Litzman and the Treasury gave SZMC the nod instead.
The hospital was in
better shape when former Treasury expert Bari Bar-Zion ran it efficiently some
years ago, bought new equipment and balanced the budget, but the owner of the
premises, Russian-Israeli oligarch Arkady Gaydamak, sent him home.
series of non-medical administrators have barely kept it afloat. The latest to
become director-general is Dov Goldfreund from Bank Poalei Agudat Yisrael, who
has no experience in hospital administration.
Although Bikur Cholim
suffers from very poor infrastructure and outdated equipment, it can handle
deliveries of a few thousand haredi mothers’ newborns each year. But now, due to
the worsening labor and financial situations, it receives no donations, salaries
have been cut and staff want to flee.
As a result, the Health Ministry
has issued orders that no elective surgery or even outpatient coronary
catheterization may be performed, and Bikur Cholim is on a reduced Shabbat
schedule. In addition, the ministry has instructed Magen David Adom to stop
bringing patients to the emergency room by ambulance – although patients needing
urgent care can walk in off the street.
Meanwhile, the Israel Medical
Association’s director-general, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, sent a forceful letter of
protest to Goldfreund, condemning the fact that doctors’ salaries have been
reduced by a third and stating that various deductions have not been
“Every day that passes without a solution to Bikur Cholim
further harms the doctors,” Eidelman wrote.
In addition, he said, the
hospitals have stopped sending premiums for malpractice insurance to the AON
The hospital management said it can’t pay these
The IMA head said that he is “of course, aware of intensive
negotiations with SZMC, but that this was no excuse for “treading on the rights
Eidelman demanded representation at talks for finding relief
for Bikur Cholim.