Some Bikur Cholim staffers resign over uncertainty

Hospital medical director tells the 'Post': "They are tired of worrying every month if they will get a salary."

Bikur Holim hospital 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Bikur Holim hospital 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Staffers at Jerusalem’s Bikur Cholim Hospital will get their “full September salaries by Thursday,” the Health Ministry said on Tuesday evening – but some desperate doctors and nurses are voting with their feet, resigning and taking jobs elsewhere.
Hospital medical director Dr. Raphael Pollack told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday evening that “some nurses tendered their resignations today and are leaving Sunday, and some doctors are also leaving. They are tired of worrying every month if they will get a salary. I know that some are going to Hadassah University Medical Center [in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem].”
Pollack said the ministry found money for September salaries, but he did not know how staffers would be paid for their work in October – which is now at a close.
Another problem is that starting in November, there will be no funds for the purchase of malpractice insurance for medical staffers.
Bikur Cholim has 220 nurses, and given the country-wide shortage, it is likely that other hospitals will eagerly hire them.
A Health Ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday evening that Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman had reached an agreement with Histadrut trade union official Avi Nissenkorn that the 600 staffers would be paid their September salaries before the end of this week, and that “at this stage, employees are working normally.”
Fed-up staff members have for a week been protesting the situation by “closing down the emergency room, canceling elective operations and shutting down outpatient clinics,” the ministry spokeswoman said. The dispute has exploded in the past few days as staffers began walking off their jobs.
Last week, senior ministry officials instructed Magen David Adom not to send any ambulances to the emergency room and to refrain from performing any non-emergency operations because the hospital is in chaos. No one at the veteran hospital in the center of town could say where the money for September salaries will come from. “But it is too little, too late,” employees said.
“We are on our way out. Litzman knew about the situation a week ago but did nothing.”
The financially healthy Shaare Zedek Medical Center – which received the nod from the Treasury and the Health Ministry to take over Bikur Cholim and run it with financial help from the government – is interested in hiring almost all of its nurses and many of its doctors if a complicated takeover agreement is achieved in the coming months.
Last week, the ultra-Orthodox management of Bikur Cholim unilaterally cut the salaries of all its employees by 30 percent. Some medical staffers are abandoning ship, certain that after years of financial difficulties and false promises, the hospital has no future.
“There have been many warnings, but Litzman and the Treasury have dilly-dallied for too long. There is no hope,” said a veteran medical staffer.
Employees added that Litzman’s statement that they had agreed to stop their sanctions and are continuing to work normally is “a pipe dream.”
Bikur Cholim currently has only about 100 occupied beds out of its more than 200 total.
Although it has pediatric neonatal intensive care beds, the shortage of qualified medical staffers is forcing parents of premature babies to transfer them all the way to a hospital in Nazareth, the closest place in the country with space.
Shaare Zedek director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy, meanwhile, told his board of directors a few weeks ago that he was taking a very careful look at the deteriorating hospital, because such a takeover could harm his own flourishing medical center – but a takeover was nevertheless possible.