Jerusalem’s bankrupt and critically ill Bikur Cholim Hospital received two hours
of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at the Knesset Finance Committee on Monday, but
it could easily be dead by Sunday morning.
RELATED:Knesset to decide if Bikur Cholim hospital lives or dies Bikur Cholim on way to closure as board members resign
MKs and employees at the
143-year-old hospital encouraged the resuscitators to go on; Health Ministry
officials could only helplessly wring their hands and watch; while the Treasury
official who has the most say in the matter – 34- year-old deputy budgets
division head Moshe Bar-Simantov – tried to turn off the ventilator, send it for
burial and divide up the “inheritance” among the capital’s three major
As the community hospital – whose buildings are owned by
Russian-Israeli businessman Arkadi Gaydamak but which is operated by a
non-profit voluntary organization, has run out of funding after years of bad
management and even suspected corruption, the Finance Committee held an urgent
meeting on whether to allocate NIS 30 million (of UTJ’s total annual allocations
from the state of NIS 75m.) to keep it going.
But as Bar-Simantov
refused, Knesset Committee chairman Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism
volunteered to save the hospital by getting faction head MK Menahem Eliezer
Moses’s permission to hand over NIS 30m. from his party’s
The community hospital largely serves the haredi
If Bikur Cholim were to be closed, it would be the first
hospital closure in the history of the state and come when the health system
lacks many hundred of beds.
Bar-Simantov blocked the action, saying that
the Treasury was not permitted to transfer state funds to a “private hospital,”
even though it is in fact a voluntary hospital and Netanya’s Laniado Medical
Center received NIS 60m. in direct state funding to keep it open three years
The Finance Ministry refused The Jerusalem Post
’s request last night
to interview Bar-Simantov and did not comment.
At the end of the noisy
session, Gafni said the committee “would not allow” the hospital to shut down,
instructed the Treasury to return in 48 hours with a plan to keep it functioning
and stated that any approved plan would be enacted no sooner than in 18 months
to allow Bikur Cholim to be stabilized and stand on its own feet.
the Knesset, about 100 of Bikur Cholim’s 650 staffers demonstrated in the Rose
Garden and called on the government to ensure that they can continue to treat
patients and deliver babies while taking home their own monthly wages instead of
looking for work or going on the dole.
“We are looking at two aspects –
the patients and the workers – while examining the needs of the health system.
We can see to it that workers be absorbed by the other hospitals,” the
Bar-Simantov said, adding that “we are looking for a long-term solution and will
consider a short-term treatment as part of that.”
However, the heads of
Hadassah University Medical Centers in Ein Kerem and on Mount Scopus and Shaare
Zedek Medical Center have already said they are not interested and could hire
only a small number of those fired.
In any case, while some of their
departments could pick up the slack, they have no solution at their own
facilities for most of the 6,000 women who each year deliver their babies at
Bikur Cholim (including many haredi women walking over on Shabbat and festivals
instead of taking an ambulance ride); and high-risk pregnancy patients would
have to deliver outside the city due to the lack of additional neonatal
intensive care units at Hadassah and Shaare Zedek.
staffers who have long suffered from irregular and inadequate wages from the
financially troubled Bikur Cholim and faced being pensionless said the other
medical centers would be able to hire only 50 to 100 of them, leaving the rest
bereft. Bar-Simantov conceded that he had no intention of ensuring that all the
workers get new jobs at other hospitals.
MK Ahmed Tibi of the United Arab
List-Ta’al received ovations from religious and rightwing people in the audience
when he, an obstetrician who did some of his residency at Bikur Cholim, called
for its survival.
Dr. Yoram Blachar, the new chairman of the Bikur Cholim
executive board and a former chairman of the Israel Medical Association, said
that if the 200-bed institution closed, if terrorist attacks returned to the
capital’s heart, people would die because they would not get medical help in
Meretz MK Haim Oron said he was sick and tired of hearing the
government speak in two voices, with the Health Ministry in favor of survival
and the Finance Ministry wanting it closed. He urged that UTJ’s offer of NIS
30m. be accepted to give Blachar time to stabilize the institution and make sure
workers get pensions.
Former health minister and Shas MK Nissim Dahan
“Just today, there are 28 operations scheduled at Bikur Cholim
not including catheterizations and deliveries. One patient is a 30-year-old
woman with breast cancer who needs a mastectomy. If the hospital closes, she
will have to wait in a two-month queue in another hospital and maybe die in the
meantime,” Dahan said.
But Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who
called for saving the hospital, said a temporary grant was no solution, as it
was “only delaying the end”; the formal health minister, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, and his Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz did not appear at the
Likud MK Tzion Pinyan declared that the Treasury’s desire to
save NIS 30m. was pointless, as it would cost NIS 50,000 to NIS 90,000 for every
dismissed employee who receives unemployment benefits; for all of them, it would
total NIS 10m. and then more for welfare. In addition, as patients unable to
walk to other hospitals would order ambulances, it would cost the public purse
millions. So would the decline of patients’ health if they avoided the other
hospitals because of other concerns.
Gafni suggested “nationalizing”
Bikur Cholim and turning it into a state hospital because the public needed
Sources who have been involved in the flailing hospital told the Post
that the problem “from beginning to end is one of failed management and lack of
transparency. All members of the executive board that manages the hospital
should be dismissed.”
The source added that the “failed heads of the
workers’ unions – who knew about [alleged] illegal transfer of NIS 1.6m. by Dudi
Zilbershlag, the former head of the board, to another charity he was running
should be forced to leave their posts and the hospital reorganized so it can be
run properly. The small number of people involved in wrongdoing should be
But the source thought the hospital should – and could –
survive if it was properly managed and received financial help from the