Hadassah medical workers protest in Jerusalem, February 10, 2014..
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
It seems there is no end in sight for Hadassah Medical Organization’s ongoing crisis. On Monday nurses and administrative and maintenance workers at the two Hadassah-University Medical Centers took to the streets of Jerusalem in protest against salary cuts for employees grossing over NIS 10,000 a month.
Workers gathered outside the house of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, at Safra Square and were slated to obstruct traffic at the Bridge of Strings at the entrance to the capital as well.
Meanwhile, at the two medical centers, Hadassah employees will be stopping nearly all activities except for lifesaving procedures. Patients who do not absolutely have to be at one of the two medical centers are being referred to Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
Ultimately, some sort of modus vivendi will be reached which will facilitate a return to normalcy at Hadassah.
But as each day goes by without resolving the turmoil, the risk grows that the two Hadassah medical centers will sustain potentially irreparable damage. It is therefore imperative that a solution be found – the faster the better.
On a human level, there is a real danger that HMO’s employees, who rightly feel they have been betrayed and unnecessarily antagonized, will lose all faith in management, and this could have long-term effects on their work motivation.
Also, as Shaare Zedek increasingly picks up the slack, absorbing hundreds of patients denied medical treatment at the two Hadassah medical centers, many of these patients might end up abandoning Hadassah for good. Shaare Zedek is more accessible via public transportation (the light rail stops nearby) and patients might reach the conclusion that Hadassah is a less reliable institution.
Even if Hadassah’s patients eventually return, the temporary economic damage sustained will make it that much harder for Hadassah to pull itself out of its rut. Diagnostic institutes, outpatient clinics and delivery rooms (a particularly profitable area of medicine) are just a few of the activities that have all but ceased to function.
As an HMO spokeswoman noted, “Every day that passes with more disruptions deepens the shock that has hit us and hurts the workers and the patients.”
HMO and the workers now have an obligation to do everything in their power to cool tempers and end the crisis immediately. HMO should show more flexibility with regard to workers’ salaries. HMO director-general Avigdor Kaplan, who earns NIS 99,000 a month, should serve as a personal example and in a demonstration of leadership agree to work for a symbolic sum.
In addition to Kaplan volunteering to forgo his NIS 99,000-a-month salary, former HMO director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, who was in the post for 11 years until three years ago, should volunteer to forgo at least some of his NIS 75,000-a-month severance pay until he is aged 67 (in four years) that the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA) gave him, as well as the more than NIS 1.5 million in “bonus” pay they deposited in his savings fund (keren hishtalmut) when he left his position. He is already receiving a NIS 60,000 a month salary as director-general of the National Insurance Institute.
Mor-Yosef and Kaplan’s “donations” would not solve HMO’s problems, but could create goodwill on the side of the staff, who would be more willing to sit down and negotiate.
Also, HWZOA, which reputedly owns tens or even hundreds of apartments and other property in Jerusalem, should sell them off, providing additional money to HMO and freeing up apartments for rent or purchase in Jerusalem where housing prices are very high.
Undoubtedly, our medical system is in need of far-reaching reforms, particularly in the field of private medical care. And Health Minister Yael German was right to appoint a committee to investigate the cause of the Hadassah imbroglio and to propose ways of avoiding such crises in the future.
But in the meantime, all obstacles preventing Hadassah from returning to business as usual must be cleared as quickly as possible. Inevitably, some form of compromise will be reached between the sides that will facilitate and end to the present crisis. Better that the recipe for such a compromise be formulated as quickly as possible for the sake of all parties concerned.