Talks begin to resolve dispute over Mor-Yosef

Ex-chairman says he’ll be happy if resignation brings an end to the crisis between Hadassah Women and HMO, with Mor-Yosef in place until end of 2012.

By
February 28, 2010 01:30
Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef

mor yosef 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The resignation of all but one of the Israeli members of the Hadassah Medical Organization board of directors appears to have shaken up the dispute over its decision last month not to renew the contract of HMO director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef beyond the end of 2010.

This decision was maintained at the insistence of HMO’s owner, the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA) and its national president, Nancy Falchuk, despite Mor-Yosef’s formal statement earlier this week that he would be willing to stay on for another two years.

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But suddenly, on Saturday night, the HWZOA spokesman announced that “both sides are talking and are committed to finding a solution.

In January, Eitan Raff, chairman of the board of Bank Leumi, resigned from the 15-member HMO board – which was composed of 10 Americans and five Israelis – over the Mor-Yosef issue. On Thursday night, three of the remaining Israelis followed. They are board chairman Yossi Nitzani, distinguished Weizmann Institute of Science scientist Prof. Ruth Arnon and Avner Naveh, a former senior Israel Air Force officer. The only remaining Israeli member is former Israeli ambassador to the US, Zalman Shoval, who reportedly thought a compromise could be reached without having to resign.

In an interview on Saturday night with The Jerusalem Post, Nitzani (a former head of the Government Corporations Authority) said he could not explain why Falchuk insists that the HMO director-general leave his post before the monumental hospitalization tower now under construction in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem opens in 2012.

“As the former chairman of the board, I think it is important for both the HMO and HWZOA that the existing management remain and complete what it is in the middle of doing. The timing for this crisis is very bad for both of them,” he said.

Nitzani, who got to know the HMO director-general well during his 15 years as chairman of the board, praised him and said: “I don’t know many people with the humanity, culture, intelligence and management ability of Shlomo Mor-Yosef. If the resignation of the Israeli board members triggers an end to this crisis and the return to normal relations between HWZOA and HMO, I will be satisfied.”

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Mor-Yosef “must continue until the end of 2012. It’s unthinkable that suddenly somebody new with no experience in the job will come to manage HMO when those who were involved in the hospitalization tower from day one will not be there. His being there is critical,” Nitzani added.

The financial crisis that has resulted from HWZOA suddenly cutting its annual donations “by more than half in one year” must be resolved, Nitzani continued.

“Over the years, they gave $40m. annually and even more for development, research and ongoing expenses. I know HMO’s needs. If the $40m. figure is not restored, then an alternative source of funds must be found,” said Nitzani, referring to the fruitless effort of the Israeli board members to persuade the American women that a friends’ organization be established in Israel to raise funds locally. “Without that money, it will be difficult for HMO to remain in the top position it is in.”

Although not a lawyer, Nitzani said he described as “superfluous” the threatening lawyer’s letter sent last week to senior HMO anesthesiologist Prof. Yoel Donchin about his description of Falchuk’s dealings with HMO in recent years.

Falchuk had said through a Tel Aviv law office that if Donchin did not renounce in a paid advertisement everything he had written in his letter to the Hebrew-language Globes newspaper, he would be sued for libel.

“Personally, I don’t think there will be a libel suit against him. I’m sure it was unpleasant for Falchuk to read it and that she did not feel good about it, but there is no basis for calling it libelous... Falchuk made a lot of mistakes, as have others. But they have to put the trouble behind them,” Nitzani said.

HWZOA “did a great deal for the State of Israel and sent HMO a lot of money over the years. It comprises a network of loyal donors,” said Nitzani. “It is important for it to be a strong organization and to have a strong relationship with Israel. I do hope that the crisis between them will be resolved and that the two organizations can get back to work.”

In a letter to Falchuk on Thursday, the three newly resigned members wrote: “After a great deal of soul-searching and numerous attempts to influence the board of directors to consider anew the decision not to continue the directorship of Prof. Mor-Yosef after the current contract at the end of 2010, we... wish to make very clear that both HWZOA and HMO are dear to our hearts... Nevertheless, recently we have faced time and again a large measure of lack of faith on the part of HWZOA vis-a-vis the HMO management, including accusations regarding work-related issues without these things having been discussed thoroughly by the board of HMO. In addition, we feel that the lines that separate between the interest of HMO and the interest of HWZOA are not always clear. As a result there is a tendency to confuse them – something that we cannot abide by.”

The three noted that, a few days ago, Mor-Yosef requested, in writing, to extend his term by two years, by which time the critical first stage of the hospitalization tower of the Hadassah University Medical Center will be completed and operational; a strategic plan for the coming years will be completed; and HMO’s financial stabilization program will be concluded. The program was begun by the management with the cooperation of the staff of HMO. “This,” added the resigning board members, “was undertaken in order to deal with the financial pressure and deficit that resulted from the sudden cutback of the annual allocation from HWZOA to the hospitals.”

The HMO board, they wrote, decided over a year ago to postpone the strategic planning that had already been agreed upon earlier. “The reason was that the board members from HWZOA had already decided to end Prof. Mor-Yosef’s term.”

During the last few days, Shoval tried to prolong Mor-Yosef’s tenure by two years, but the American members refused, the former board members declared.

The Post learned Friday that, during negotiations, the Americans withdrew their long-held insistence that Mor-Yosef would have to go in December and suggested that he continue for three months or even more, but not longer than Falchuk, who is due to step down herself from the national presidency in July 2011. But then the talks collapsed. No immediate comment could be obtained on this from HWZOA.

In light of all this, the resigning members declared that they “have come to the realization that we cannot be partners to these decisions and cannot take responsibility for the repercussions of these decisions.”

HWZOA said that it “accepts with great regret” the resignation of the three Israeli board members, calling them “dedicated people.”

Its statement added, “We are troubled to think that an orchestrated campaign of harassment and personal attack may have forced these three people to step down, especially during these difficult times when their service was especially needed. These attacks have been highly critical of the devoted women of Hadassah and even have criticized American Jews in general.”

As for replacing the four, HWZOA stated that “fortunately, Israel has many dedicated, talented leaders. We already are in contact with potential new Israeli HMO board members and are confident that we can move quickly to enlist new leaders to continue the important work of HMO.”

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