‘LITZMAN AND ROTSTEIN are killing our children out of greed!’ say the two signs on the left during the protest at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Parents of children with blood cancers reacted with shouts of “Fraud!” on Monday to a plan by the Health Ministry and the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) to cope with the resignation of nine oncologists scheduled to take effect on June 4.
The plan, presented by HMO director-general Prof. Zeev Rotstein and Health Ministry director- general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, includes hiring several new oncologists from Sheba Medical Center and abroad, in addition to having Sheba consultants come to Jerusalem a few times each week.
Six veteran pediatric oncologists led by Prof. Michael Weintraub, and three medical residents in the pediatric hemato-oncology department, announced months ago they were resigning over their dissatisfaction with Rotstein’s policies, behavior and actions.
The dissatisfaction included Rotstein’s decision to unite the adult and pediatric hemato- oncology departments and treat large numbers of foreign patients. The foreign patients, including those from the Palestinian Authority, bring in over half a million shekels per case to HMO, leading to Israelis being in the minority of patients being treated.
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has refused to allow Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center to open a competing pediatric hemato-oncology department. Such a unit would perform allogeneic bone-marrow transplants (taken from outside donors) even though it already has a department that carries out autologous transplants (with material taken from the patient).
The parents argued that the resigning doctors are ready to move to Shaare Zedek en masse to provide excellent care in Jerusalem.
The parents further said such a “patchwork” arrangement will “endanger our children,” and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene.
They also filed a suit in the High Court of Justice on Thursday to cancel Litzman’s order against Shaare Zedek.
A labor court refused last week to grant Rotstein restraining orders to prevent the doctors from resigning – and even justified their decision to leave Hadassah. While the oncologists have such respected reputations they would quickly be snapped up by other hospitals here and abroad, it has been reported that Litzman ordered other medical centers here not to hire them, together or individually.
Rotstein maintained in a press conference on Monday that the parents’ group used illegitimate means, including stark photos of children, lawyers, a public-relations firm and demonstrations to increase pressure on the issue. “I have never seen a minister who gets into the matter of a few workers [resigning] and take it so personally as Minister Litzman, who invested efforts... with sensitivity to mediate but they were rejected with insulting words,” said Rotstein, who last Purim wrote a “humorous” letter to friends calling Weintraub “Haman” and making other such negative comparisons to Shaare Zedek.
Rotstein’s “solution” to the crisis includes Dr. Gal Goldstein – of Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, where Rotstein previously director-general and who joined HMO in May – to take over for Weintraub. Rotstein declared that the pediatric hemato-oncology department at Hadassah “will continue to function normally.”