Staffers at Jerusalem’s Bikur Cholim Hospital will get their “full September
salaries by Thursday,” the Health Ministry said on Tuesday evening – but some
desperate doctors and nurses are voting with their feet, resigning and taking
Hospital medical director Dr. Raphael Pollack told
The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday evening that “some nurses tendered their
resignations today and are leaving Sunday, and some doctors are also
leaving. They are tired of worrying every month if they will get a
salary. I know that some are going to Hadassah University Medical Center [in
Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem].”
Pollack said the ministry found money for
September salaries, but he did not know how staffers would be paid for their
work in October – which is now at a close.
Another problem is that
starting in November, there will be no funds for the purchase of malpractice
insurance for medical staffers.
Bikur Cholim has 220 nurses, and given
the country-wide shortage, it is likely that other hospitals will eagerly hire
A Health Ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday evening that Deputy
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman had reached an agreement with Histadrut trade
union official Avi Nissenkorn that the 600 staffers would be paid their
September salaries before the end of this week, and that “at this stage,
employees are working normally.”
Fed-up staff members have for a week
been protesting the situation by “closing down the emergency room, canceling
elective operations and shutting down outpatient clinics,” the ministry
spokeswoman said. The dispute has exploded in the past few days as staffers
began walking off their jobs.
Last week, senior ministry officials
instructed Magen David Adom not to send any ambulances to the emergency room and
to refrain from performing any non-emergency operations because the hospital is
in chaos. No one at the veteran hospital in the center of town could say where
the money for September salaries will come from. “But it is too little, too
late,” employees said.
“We are on our way out. Litzman knew about the
situation a week ago but did nothing.”
The financially healthy Shaare
Zedek Medical Center – which received the nod from the Treasury and the Health
Ministry to take over Bikur Cholim and run it with financial help from the
government – is interested in hiring almost all of its nurses and many of its
doctors if a complicated takeover agreement is achieved in the coming
Last week, the ultra-Orthodox management of Bikur Cholim
unilaterally cut the salaries of all its employees by 30 percent. Some medical
staffers are abandoning ship, certain that after years of financial difficulties
and false promises, the hospital has no future.
“There have been many
warnings, but Litzman and the Treasury have dilly-dallied for too long. There is
no hope,” said a veteran medical staffer.
Employees added that Litzman’s
statement that they had agreed to stop their sanctions and are continuing to
work normally is “a pipe dream.”
Bikur Cholim currently has only about
100 occupied beds out of its more than 200 total.
Although it has
pediatric neonatal intensive care beds, the shortage of qualified medical
staffers is forcing parents of premature babies to transfer them all the way to
a hospital in Nazareth, the closest place in the country with
Shaare Zedek director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy, meanwhile,
told his board of directors a few weeks ago that he was taking a very careful
look at the deteriorating hospital, because such a takeover could harm his own
flourishing medical center – but a takeover was nevertheless possible.