Hadassah crisis: Shaare Zedek could hire oncologists, treat some children

High Court issues preliminary ruling after mediation fails

‘LITZMAN AND ROTSTEIN are killing our children out of greed!’ say the two signs on the left during the protest at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. (photo credit: Courtesy)
‘LITZMAN AND ROTSTEIN are killing our children out of greed!’ say the two signs on the left during the protest at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Health Ministry must explain by 5 p.m. Thursday why Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem should not be allowed to treat some children with cancer, the High Court of Justice ruled Tuesday.
If the ministry does not persuade the court, two or three senior oncologists who resigned from the Hadassah Medical Organization will be integrated into Shaare Zedek’s pediatric hematology-oncology clinic until the end of the year.
Over recent months, senior physicians in the pediatric oncology department have tendered resignations over disagreements with the policies and behaviors of HMO director-general Prof. Zeev Rotstein.
The court did not explain who would treat the children after that time if this occurs, but it did open the door for Shaare Zedek to serve some of the children who have been taken to hospitals outside Jerusalem following the resignations.
Under such a scenario, the doctors themselves could choose who would work at the hospital, while the Health Ministry would be responsible for integrating the remaining six or seven physicians into other medical centers.
The ruling came after retired Supreme Court justice Elyakim Rubinstein failed to overcome the intransigence of the two sides: doctors who left Hadassah-University Medical Center and parents of some of the juvenile cancer patients who were being treated there on one side, and the HMO and the Health Ministry on the other. A week of mediation by Rubinstein brought no concessions from either side.
The court said it did “not find reason to issue restraining orders” to force the ministry to open a new pediatric hemato-oncology department at Shaare Zedek, but at the same time, it did not order the resigning doctors to return to Hadassah against their will.
The parents and resigning doctors said Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who ensured Rotstein’s appointment to try to bring economic recovery to HMO, has never explained why he refuses to allow the opening of a new department at Shaare Zedek instead of the disintegrating department at HMO.
If the ministry does not persuade the High Court that two or three of the oncologists not be allowed to move to Shaare Zedek to treat the children – who have been taken for treatment in Petah Tikva, Tel Aviv and Tel Hashomer rather than getting care in Jerusalem where they live – those doctors will be allowed to go to Shaare Zedek.
According to the parents, these likely would be Prof. Michael Weintraub, who previously headed the Hadassah department, and his senior colleagues Profs. Shoshana Revel-Vilk and Iris Fried.
The court ruling does not yet allow Shaare Zedek to perform bone marrow transplants from foreign donors, which the hospital’s director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy has said he could arrange without public money within a few months if he receives ministry permission.
The Health Ministry rushed to issue a statement that it “honors the court decision that accepted our professional stand not to open a department at Shaare Zedek.”
As for the court order that the ministry explain whether it opposes the shifting of two or three doctors, the ministry said it would respond as required.
The parents said they were “happy the Hadassah option has been removed from the table,” adding, “We don’t see Rotstein as a partner in any agreement. Shaare Zedek is the only option.” They also called on Litzman to “forgo his ego” and allow Shaare Zedek to open a new department.
In an official statement, Rotstein said: “The time has come to rehabilitate the many damages caused by the crisis. It is time to build, rehabilitate and grow. The immediate tasks facing us are a return to a quality work routine in the department, continued construction and recruitment of quality physicians, and continued growth, development and rehabilitation of the hospital.”