The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday ordered to freeze the Hadassah Medical Organization's debts for 90 days.
 
According to the ruling, the current hospital management will retain authority over the hospitals affairs, but trustees were appointed to help rehabilitate the hospital's finances.
 
The ruling came as workers at hospitals across Israel were holding a two hour work stoppage in support of employees at Hadassah's two Jerusalem hospitals in Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus, who have received only half of their pay for January.
 
Tuesday's ruling, giving Hadassah temporary respite from its creditors left employees unsure whether they would receive their pay, or lose some benefits from their 2011 collective agreement with the Israel Medical Association (IMA).

The court ruling included a demand that the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America ensure that the doctors continue to have liability insurance to cover any lawsuits against them. Hadassah doctors had threatened to walk out completely without malpractice insurance.

On Tuesday, between 10 a.m. and noon, workers’ assemblies were being held at all public hospitals, during which only lifesaving services will be provided. This occurred on Sunday morning in sympathy with the plight of Hadassah’s 6,000 employees.

In addition, HMO’s nurses and administrative and maintenance employees have joined the physicians and launched sanctions until further notice, during which they will operate according to a reduced Shabbat schedule on the Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses.

On Monday, some 1,000 Hadassah employees marched from the Israel Museum to the nearby Finance Ministry to protest against the ministry’s actions against the staff.

District Court Judge David announced on Monday afternoon that he would give his ruling on Tuesday after hearing both sides’ arguments on HMO’s request to freeze its financial obligations.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said in a statement that “Hadassah is a public hospital that serves the public. It’s impossible that the workers should pay the price, that those who get up at 4 a.m. and wash the toilets should pay the price like nurses and doctors.”

Herzog said he was “worried” by what Health Minister Yael German had said about the crisis.

“She said ‘there will be dismissals,’ but I say there will not be dismissals,” the MK declared. “I fear that human lives will be lost if the government does not allocate money to the hospital.”

Meanwhile, the other major Jerusalem hospital, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, stated that it was receiving many more patients due to the partial sanctions at HMO. With Hadassah’s problems, Prof. Jonathan Halevy, SZMC’s director, said Shaare Zedek’s patient load was up by 15-20% and that it had bolstered its staff to cope with all who need care.

“We will do all we can to meet the medical needs in Jerusalem,” Halevy said.

The Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA), which owns HMO, issued a statement from New York saying that the decision to file for restructuring was a “difficult moment.”

“For over a century, HMO has been a world-leading medical center and the premier medical institution serving the people of Israel,” the statement said. “While HMO has achieved so many wonderful things, today it faces a fiscal crisis that allows for no other solution than an organized restructuring process – similar in nature to that experienced by US automakers in the wake of the financial crisis.”

HWZOA national president Marcie Natan said that similar to the financial crisis that faced the American auto industry, Hadassah’s problems had “no single root cause.”

“This crisis is the result of dynamics that have been building for years, including unsustainably low reimbursement rates for services; unaffordable union contracts; and unrealistic commitments to the university that trains their students and conducts research at HMO facilities,” Nathan said. “We will do our part to help see HMO through the restructuring process. It is our expectation that HMO’s other stakeholders – the government of Israel, the unions, the university, and the hospitals’ creditors and suppliers – will join us in that effort.”

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