Bikur Cholim turning away women in labor

Jerusalem Hospital's staff strikes after two months of partial or no pay; emergency room closed for 6th day.

Pregnant women [illustrative]_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Pregnant women [illustrative]_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
As of midnight Sunday night, Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem has been turning away women in labor due to an extended labor dispute. Pregnant women already admitted were receiving full treatment.
Hospital staff was working to transfer premature babies and sick elderly patients to other hospitals.
As a result of the financial crisis at the hospital, the 600 staffers received only 70 percent of their September salaries and there was no evidence that they would receive their October wages. In protest, workers put the hospital on its limited Shabbat schedule a week and a half ago. The emergency room has not been accepting patients since Tuesday.
The Labor Court is set to rule on an injunction against the workers later on Monday.
Senior medical staffers voiced severe criticism on Sunday of Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman, who they said has taken only partial and delayed action to save the nearly 170-year-old hospital, which caters largely to the haredi community in the north and center of Jerusalem. Before the end of November, the hospital’s medical negligence insurance policies are due to expire, and “no one would be crazy enough to treat patients or be treated at the hospital without it,” one official said.
Senior ministry officials have prepared a “contingency plan” that will find beds for all the 100 patients who remain at the hospital; only half of the beds are occupied.
A total of 12 women gave birth on Sunday, and the neonatal intensive care unit has over a dozen premature infants. Due to the shortage of neonatal intensive care beds, it has been very difficult for the ministry to find other beds for premature babies in other hospitals around the country.
Some Bikur Cholim staffers have resigned but have not left yet because they must give advance notice. One administrator said: “Almost every – except the really idealistic and care about the hospital – who is really worth has already left.”
The staff is eagerly waiting to see whether Shaare Zedek Medical Center, which is in good financial health, is ready to take over Bikur Cholim, which over the years has suffered poor management and failures by the voluntary organization that ran it. But Shaare Zedek is not ready to jump in immediately, even after the Treasury invited it to make a bid to take over Bikur Cholim. “It would be harder to resuscitate the hospital once it shuts down than to save it before it stops breathing,” said one senior doctor.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to this report.