Nurses, administrative and maintenance workers at Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, stage a walk-out February 16, in protest at not receiving their full wages for January.
(photo credit: YONATHAN SINDEL / FLASH 90)
Jerusalem District Court Justice David Mintz on Sunday ordered the state to hold intensive negotiations with the other sides involving the financial collapse of the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) – even during Passover if necessary – to reach an agreement.
HMO has already run out of the NIS 100 million that it was given two months ago by the Treasury and the US-based Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA), which owns HMO.
It was supposed to last three months. The reason was the two university medical centers in Jerusalem earned very little money during the threeweek strike by staffers, who had for months not been paid on time.
Mintz, an Orthodox Jew, said the functioning and existence of the hospitals are “a matter of life and death” – thus justifying working on the first and last days of the festival, as well as on the five intermediate days. He expressed his lack of patience with the state for its “treatment” of HWZOA and HMO and said the sides must negotiate sincerely and bring an end to the crisis.
Despite his suggestion that talks can be held even on the festival, the sides decided to wait until Tuesday night, after the Seder and the first day of the holiday, to hold intensive sessions.
HWZOA petitioned for the hearing, arguing the state has done a lot of talking but not stated exactly what it wants – except that it wants to put a lien on property and lands from the hospital campuses to cover the debts. No explanation of the state position has been given, HWZOA insisted. HMO has an accumulated debt of NIS 1.3 billion and an ongoing debt of more than NIS 350 million.
The Treasury has been negotiating with HMO and HWZOA on the economic part of the problems. The doctors’ union said it supports HWZOA’s demands and opposes property being confiscated from HWZOA. They and the other Hadassah unions said they oppose the dissolution of HMO.
HMO and HWZOA argued that if the hospitals’ 6,000 employees are dismissed all at once, it would cause the National Insurance Institute – which would have to pay unemployment insurance – to collapse.
There will be another court session April 24, said Mintz, when the sides must state either that there is an agreement or if there is none, and why one hasn’t been made.
The 90-day court-ordered freeze of HMO’s financial activities is due to expire May 12.
Hadassah employees have set up a fund to give financial help to those who are unable to pay for their families’ basic needs. Although numerous employees received diminished March salaries because of overtime or other benefits to which they were not entitled during the strike, management “gave assistance” to all workers who came and said they were in a desperate financial position over the holiday, the HMO spokeswoman said.