Sunday meeting may determine fate of Bikur Cholilm Hospital

Hospital management has asked Health Ministry for a NIS 30 million grant to get back on its feet, avoid bankruptcy.

Bikur Cholim Hospital 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Bikur Cholim Hospital 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An all-important meeting that will apparently decide the fate of Jerusalem’s Bikur Cholim Hospital will be held at 8 p.m. on Sunday by Health Ministry director-general Dr. Ronni Gamzu in his office, with representatives of the hospital management, the Histadrut and the Treasury.
The management has asked the Treasury for a “one-time” state grant of NIS 30 million to put the hospital back on its feet, after which it hopes Bikur Cholim can go into the black with services that will earn more money. If not, it will go bankrupt and close, management says.
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The hospital – 80 percent of whose patients are observant Jews – said it lacks the money to pay staffers their salaries on January 9, and that the hospital will from Sunday lack insurance. Thus the hospital staffers sent a message to Prime Minister and Health Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week that at midnight Sunday they will be forced to abandon their responsibility for all patients in the 200-bed hospital.
During the last four months, employees have had to give around a third of their wages to management as a loan to keep the 143-year-old hospital running.
Despite the fact that United Torah Judaism offered to cover the NIS 30 million with party funding, Treasury budget officials have said this would be “impossible” because it is a “private” hospital (it is a voluntary hospital purchased privately by Israeli-Russian billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak), even though a hospital with a similar status – Netanya’s Laniado Medical Center – received a NIS 60 million state grant three years ago to keep it going.
Bikur Cholim’s executive board, headed by Dr. Yoram Blachar, said the Sunday meeting was its last hope for survival.
Never in the history of the state has a hospital been shut down.
Until now, Netanyahu has been silent on the Bikur Cholim problem.