Doctors at the two Hadassah-University Medical Centers will no longer have to wait until their department chairmen reach retirement age (67) to have hopes of advancing their careers and replacing them. The Hadassah Medical Organization has signed an "historic" agreement with the Israel Medical Association (IMA) to protect and preserve the salary levels and benefits of all outgoing department heads, who will step down after two terms. It is hoped this deal will lead to similar agreements in other hospitals around the country. Back in 1994, the IMA agreed in principle that medical department heads would be willing to step down and continue working in other positions, but only on condition that their salaries and benefits were not reduced. This condition was unacceptable to the Finance Ministry, and nothing was implemented, except in the Hadassah Medical Centers' internal medicine departments. As Hadsassah is a public, voluntary organization and its hospitals not owned either by the Health Ministry or any of the health funds, it was able to initiate such a limited agreement a few years ago. But now, outgoing department heads will be able to retain their salaries and benefits, as well as compete for other management positions if they like. The new deal with the IMA will soon be implemented on the Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses in Jerusalem. As most department heads take charge around the age of 50 and two terms are a total of 12 years, the average chairman will step down around age 62, with five more years in another position before retirement. Thus the financial outlay for continuing to pay their higher salaries and benefits is not regarded by experts as very high. IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar, who signed the agreement Sunday with Hadassah Medical Organization director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, said the accord would ensure that talented younger doctors continued to compete for hospital management positions in the future. He said it would introduce more flexibility, bring in new blood and thinking and encourage younger doctors to remain in hospitals whose department heads would otherwise have been affixed to their seats, causing senior physicians to move to other hospitals due to their perceived lack of a future. Blachar blamed the Treasury for being the "stumbling block" preventing such an agreement in hospitals owned by the Health Ministry, Clalit Health Services and others, but hoped the Finance Ministry would change its mind and adopt such an arrangement as well.