Nurses and administrative and maintenance workers of the Hadassah Medical Organization decided Wednesday to continue their sanctions on Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses until further notice until they receive their January salaries in full.
The HMO spokeswoman, Racheli Goldblatt, said that the Jerusalem District Court decision to freeze HMO’s financial dealings meant the immediate transfer to Hadassah of NIS 50 million from the government, matched by the same amount from the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA). The freeze of debts to suppliers and banks will make it possible for HMO to function and pay workers so the hospitals can continue functioning, she said.
“The first thing is to pay salaries; everyone received 50 percent of their January paychecks at the beginning of February, while the rest will be paid differentially. Those who earn up to NIS 10,000 will get all what they are owed, while those who earn more -- for example HMO director-general Avigdor Kaplan, who earns NIS 100,000 monthly -- will get only 30%,” she said.
It was not clear whether HMO employees would halt the sanctions that have nearly incapacitated the hospital’s functioning and sent patients streaming to financially robust Shaare Zedek Medical Center (SZMC) -- or whether they would continue to protest against management’s plans to dismiss hundreds of personnel and cut wages temporarily or permanently.
The Histadrut said the failure to pay the full wages of 6,000 HMO employees means that ambulatory care, including outpatient clinics, diagnostic institutes and day hospitals would continue to remain closed. Only urgent care will be provided. Emergency rooms and delivery rooms are being run on a reduced Shabbat schedule.
Meanwhile, SZMC a few kilometers north of Hadassah’s Ein Kerem campus has been receiving 350 patients a day at its regular emergency department and over 100 children at its pediatric emergency department -- instead of the total of 260 that it usually receives within 24 hours.
Director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy called on his staffers to show up in full to cope with the additional patients who will not be treated at Hadassah. More beds, clean laundry, medical equipment and disposables were brought in. The number of operations has risen in recent days by 20%, as has the demand for outpatient clinics and diagnostic institutes.
Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the longtime former director-general of HMO who in 2011 left and became director-general of the National Insurance Institute (NII), made a public statement for the first time since he was accused of earning large sums in bonuses and severence pay from HMO. Speaking at a session devoted to NII’s own deficits, Mor-Yosef said he did not actually take the bonuses of over NIS 1 million from HMO, even though it was offered to him when he left. He also accused the Treasury and HWZOA of knowing about the severe financial decline of HMO but “not doing anything and even preventing solutions” when they could be found.
For four years, he said, “I was a successful director-general of Soroka University Medical Center [in Beersheba} and then 11 years director-general of HMO, and now at NII. I led Hadassah to its peak, medically, physically in infrastructure and in research. I raised NIS 1.5 billion in donations and led the building of the new Hospitalization Tower, which will supply hospital care for the next 50 years.” The health system, Mor-Yosef said, “is built on deficits as a method. Public sources for healthcare must grow. The presentation that HWZOA and the Treasury have made is tendentious and made to look like an objective document. They are involved in everything. HWZOA’s financial director participates in all management forums. They reduces their financial support drastically and want the debts to be paid from workers’ wages. The hospitals can’t survive without funding from the women, the owners,” Mor-Yosef continued.
HMO’s situation was known to both of them, but they let it decline,” he maintained. “They opposed my attempt to raise money director for the hospitals and even to set up a friends organization in Israel,” because they wanted to monopolize fundraising, Mor-Yosef said. “The hospitals are cynically taken advantage of to raise money for the Hadassah women’s” projects in the US...If the financial support given now had been given three years ago, we would not have reached this situation, but the Treasury goes into action only when an organization is dying,” said the former HMO head.
To divert the fire from the real causes, “they aim at me, the staff and the doctors -- and they are not the problem. Honoring wage agreements is accepted and not the problem. The effort to make the matter personal and not national will not succeed. Let them open my severence agreement, and I will accept what is decided. They forgot to note that I never took the bonuses that were coming to me.”
The Knesset plenum also discussed the HMO’s troubles. Labor Party and opposition chief MK Isaac Herzog said that the government knew about the impending crisis “but did nothing about it except to talk.”
Medical interns who work long shifts at Hadassah’s hospitals and earn very low pay complained on Wednesday that they are drowning in debts. Nearly 90 interns were sent to Hadassah to work 11 months ago by a lottery of hospital positions. They are caught in the middle, said Yael Holtzberg, who has six weeks more to get her medical doctor’s degree. “We can’t resign on the one hand, and we don’t have an official works committee on the other. We work full time plus at least four shifts per month of 24 hours apiece.”