Bikur Cholim takeover mixes tears of pain and joy

In Shaare Zedek’s takeover of hospital, 150 staffers have been dismissed, but the rest have become employees.

Bikur Cholim 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Bikur Cholim 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The takeover of Jerusalem’s venerable Bikur Cholim Hospital – poorly run by a haredi voluntary organization over the last decade – by the financially successful Shaare Zedek Medical Center this week was a “sad day but also a happy occasion,” said Shaare Zedek director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy.
About 150 staffers – or 27 percent of Bikur Cholim’s manpower – have been dismissed, but the rest have become Shaare Zedek employees who will work in either the 80-yearold premises at the corner of Strauss and Hanevi’im streets or at Shaare Zedek’s growing campus opposite Mount Herzl.
Hundreds of people will have jobs, and the tradition of Bikur Cholim will continue under the aegis of Shaare Zedek.
“Jerusalemites have gained,” Halevy said.
Within a few weeks, Halevy told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, the buildings will have signs saying: “Shaare Zedek Medical Center-Bikur Cholim branch” – with doctors, nurses, technicians, and administrative and maintenance workers on the Shaare Zedek payroll.
Dr. Raphael Pollack, who has been the head of Bikur Cholim’s obstetrics/gynecology and fertility department, as well as its medical director and even its director-general for a time, will again be head of the department, which serves mostly the haredi community.
Pollack is a veteran ob/gyn and also an expert in “turning over” fetuses in the breech position before delivery.
Halevy, who already has detailed computerized files on all new employees, said that the decision on who would continue and who would be dismissed was taken very sensitively, according to specific jobs and personal capabilities. The vast majority of nurses, most of the doctors and fewer of the non-medical workers have been taken on by Shaare Zedek.
Halevy declined to say how much money the Treasury is allocating to Shaare Zedek as part of the deal, but press reports have ranged from NIS 71 million to NIS 100 million.
The director-general said that when he went on his first official tour this week as the head of Bikur Cholim, “I saw people with light in their eyes.”
Because of the voluntary organization’s “mismanagement” over the years, payments for taxes, pensions and other deductions were “lost” – and as a result, debts to the state, workers and suppliers were not paid. The National Insurance Institute has provided a safety net of about NIS 110,000 per pensioner, but numerous ex-staffers will not receive their full pensions.
Low-occupancy departments at Bikur Cholim will be closed or merged with Shaare Zedek’s campus. The surgical department will handle only low-risk operations, and Shaare Zedek’s surgeons will be able to perform operations in both hospitals.
In addition, the once popular and prestigious cardiology department will function on an ambulatory basis downtown.
The hospital’s emergency room will be run as an urgent-care center by TEREM, the private and very popular network of clinics; patients who cannot be treated in the TEREM facility will be sent to the emergency room of their choice, either at Shaare Zedek or the two Hadassah University Medical Centers.
Halevy predicted that there will be an increase in deliveries in both campuses, which are separated by only half-a-dozen stops on the light rail. As Shaare Zedek delivers some 16,000 babies a year and Bikur Cholim some 5,000, the integration of the two will soon make Shaare Zedek the biggest childbirth center in the world, pushing ahead of a hospital in Texas that currently holds the record.
Meanwhile, Halevy has opened a new “management unit” to run the Bikur Cholim facilities, and an independent company has been hired to examine infrastucture improvement needs in the downtown hospital – whose pipes frequently leak and whose electrical systems fail.
Russian-Israeli tycoon Arkady Gaydamak, who owns Bikur Cholim’s facilities, has told the director-general he will not charge rent on them for three years.
Shaare Zedek will eventually have more space for facilities that will not remain at Bikur Cholim, as its “Building of the New Generation” is currently under construction and will be completed in 18 months.