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New HMO board member optimistic that crisis can be brought to an end
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
02/18/2014
Avi Balashnikov: Staffers and management know they all have to lend a hand, there will be a recovery and an agreement.
 
Avi Balashnikov – a new, unpaid member of the Hadassah Medical Organization’s board of directors – says he is “optimistic” that the organization can return to normal functioning after the current bitter dispute with employees finally ends.

Balashnikov replaced one of several board members who resigned late last year. A former director-general of the Knesset, Beit Hanassi and the Communications Ministry, he is now board chairman of Channel 10 and a representative of businessman Ron Lauder in Israel – and he believes his record of public and private service will help him contribute to the restoration of normalcy at Hadassah’s two Jerusalem medical centers.

He offered his volunteer services to the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which owns the medical organization, a few months ago, when the Israeli board members resigned en masse. He was appointed along with former Airports Authority head Moti Debi – although in any case, the two remain a minority, as HWZOA has a majority of American members on the board.

“When I saw the Israeli members jumped ship, I was appalled and called HWZOA president Marcie Natan to offer my services without pay,” Balashnikov told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Tuesday. “I told her I would bring my life experience and management skills to being a director.

As a longtime Jerusalemite, I felt pained by what had happened.”

For the last 102 years, the women of HWZOA have devoted themselves to Israeli healthcare and donated billions of dollars to their institution, he continued. “It expresses their strong connection between the Diaspora and Israel. They started tipat halav [well-baby] stations all around the country. HWZOA deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace.”

Although Balashnikov was delivered in Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center, his mother was born on Mount Scopus, as were three of his four children.

Talk here that the government should nationalize HWZOA assets here angered him.

“The finger of blame should be pointed at the Treasury, which set down rules that harmed HMO financially, such as major discounts to the health funds and capping arrangements,” he said. “These discounts cost the hospitals NIS 350 million a year, which is HMO’s running deficit. Why should HWZOA pay for the failures of the Treasury?” He added that “it is the decision of the Hadassah women whether to sell any of their property in Israel. There is no reason why HWZOA should pay for something for which the government is responsible. The government did not properly supervise what was going on in HMO. Any shortcomings will have to be fixed.”

The veteran administrator called on Finance Minister Yair Lapid to give the medical organization NIS 150m. immediately, in addition to the two payments of NIS 50m. each that the organization received from the Treasury and HWZOA .

“The Treasury has made additional tax collections in recent months, so it can afford it,” Balashnikov said.

“The staffers, management and others involved know they all have to lend a hand,” he added. “There is a crisis, but there will be a recovery and an agreement. I am optimistic.”
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