Bikur Cholim chairman resigns as Litzman reportedly balks

Unless owner Gaydamak is granted zoning variance, Jerusalem hospital’s closure looks inevitable

Bikur Cholim Hospital 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Bikur Cholim Hospital 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dr. Yoram Blachar, former chairman of the Israel Medical Association, who had been making a last-ditch effort to save Jerusalem’s 143-year-old Bikur Cholim Hospital, on Tuesday night informed the hospital management and doctors’ union that he was resigning as chairman of the voluntary organization running the institution.
He said his decision came following “rumors” that Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman would not support the remaining option that would save Bikur Cholim from closing down: That Arkadi Gaydamak – who originally purchased the hospital for over $32 million and then said he owned only the real estate – would match state funding and be allowed to build high-rise buildings on non-historic sections of the downtown campus.
In the last few weeks, Blachar and his administrative director, Yanai Dagan, tried yet again to save the hospital. But Blachar said that Litzman “turned a legitimate and important step to save a hospital that serves many thousands of Jerusalem residents into a personal and unnecessary dispute. It’s a shame that the future of the hospital has been determined from considerations of ego and power struggles and not from those that benefit the real aim." No comment was available from Litzman, a Gur hassid who in the past has denied that disputes with the former power brokers at Bikur Cholim – the Porush family – were stymying efforts to save the hospital.
Blachar said he had devoted himself to the Bikur Cholim job because he believed the hospital’s continued operation was justified and that it could once again flourish.
“We did the best we could and beyond,” said Blachar, who has filled the position since September.
His successor at the IMA, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, said he would still try to do what he could to save Bikur Cholim and preserve the work conditions of its doctors and other staffers, but with Blachar’s departure, the chance that the haredi-oriented hospital will shut down due to the Treasury’s determination that it is “unnecessary and must be closed” is becoming stronger every day.