(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman declined to comment Wednesday on reports that patients had been displaced at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem’s emergency department at his urging, to make room for the ailing Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the 78-year-old Gerrer Rebbe, and his entourage.
According to the reports by Channel 10 and Haaretz, Hadassah Medical Organization director-general Prof.
Zeev Rotstein granted a request from Litzman – a Ger Hassid in the United Torah Judaism party – to clear out the area so as to make room for the rabbi and people who had escorted him to the hospital.
“Patients who had been waiting for treatment were removed from rooms, and one was transferred to a bed in the hallway,” the reports said. Haaretz suggested in its report that 30 patients waiting for a bed had been displaced as a result of Litzman’s request. Rotstein, whom Litzman named two years ago as head of the Hadassah Medical Organization, cooperated fully with Litzman’s request, the newspaper said.
The Ger movement is the largest hassidic group in Israel.
“Litzman does this at Hadassah as if the hospital were his, with the backing of Rotstein, Haaretz said, quoting one anonymous source. “A request from a member of Litzman’s staff to get his or her relative treated is a familiar practice,” the sources said. The paper quoted one Hadassah doctor as saying he receives telephone calls from Litzman’s people “every week to two weeks to take care of this or that patients. Another doctor said he received many requests from Ger people.”
As another source told Haaretz, “We have patients who lie in the emergency room for three or more days waiting for a bed in one of the wards. The hospitality for the rabbi’s entourage comes directly at the expense of the sick.”
Raviv Drucker of Channel 10 tweeted that Hadassah emptied three rooms and closed the family waiting room.
“Litzman came in person to choose the room, and a deputy director-general of the hospital supervised. A doctor and male nurse were sent to give personal care to the rabbi.”
A Ger source, however, said the story was “incorrect. There was only one room, and no waiting patients were inconvenienced. The rebbe was there for a few hours and then went home.”
He added that Litzman “works constantly to save people, secular and religious Jews and Arabs. He has an office to receive requests for help.”
But the Ger source did not explain how, given the required egalitarianism of the National Health Insurance Law, Litzman could constantly help those who contacted him without harming others waiting for their turn without special favors.
“Litzman doesn’t see the hospital as his own. He is deputy minister and responsible for the entire health system,” said the Ger source. “Other MKs also ask the hospitals for help. Litzman does not get money for helping them.”
Asked to comment, Hadassah Medical Organization spokeswoman Hadar Elboim initially said: “Litzman did not choose beds or anything. Where were all the media when the prime minister was operated on at 2 a.m. with a surgeon and an entire entourage? Why didn’t they jump then?” Later, Elboim said the Hadassah Medical Organization “maintains the full right of privacy of its patients. The medical treatments at Hadassah provided to all patients are among the most advanced in the world in terms of technology and quality. The Hadassah administration is happy to provide patients with high quality hospitalization at the new Davidson Hospital Tower, and it is praying that it will be given [ministry] permission to renovate the old hospital building as well. The conditions for all patients and departments will be among the best in Israel.”
Rotstein commented to Maariv that “from time to time, Drucker speaks nonsense, and he did it this time, apparently in honor of Purim. The Hadassah Medical Organization management rejects the claims that the Gerrer Rebbe, the rabbi of Deputy Minister Litzman, received preferential treatment. I hope [Drucker] will retract his report.”