Hospital directors demand money from Finance Ministry to keep operating

Prof. Fahed Hakim told the finance minister: “You have a historic opportunity to sign off on the collapse of 7 hospitals or to give them oxygen”

Hospital directors demand money from Finance Ministry to keep operating (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Hospital directors demand money from Finance Ministry to keep operating
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Managers of seven public hospitals staged a dramatic protest in front of the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on Wednesday, setting out empty beds under signs that said, “Soon, there will be no hospitals left to save.”
Among those attending the protest were Shaare Zedek Medical Center director Prof. Ofer Merin, Hadassah-University Medical Center head Prof. Zeev Rotstein, Laniado Medical Center CEO Nadav Chen, Nazareth’s English Hospital director Prof. Fahed Hakim and Nazareth’s Holy Family Hospital director Prof. Ibrahim Harbaji.
Many doctors and hospital administrators noted during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic that even as hospitals have risen to the COVID-19 challenge, the crisis has exposed years of neglect and underfunding of the system.
Hospitals in Jerusalem have been hit especially hard by the rising morbidity in the virus’s third wave. Magen David Adom emergency medical service was told in late December that some COVID-19 patients in the capital should be taken to hospitals in other cities to avoid overcrowding.
Rotstein said: “We’ve reached a line that is already red; we crossed it a long time ago. How can it be that the State of Israel is at war, and the soldiers at the front – the [medical] teams – are being sent into battle without resources? We can’t pay their salaries at the end of the month.... It’s just a bad dream.”
He added that “Hadassah is inundated with patients. As of this morning it is treating 140 corona patients, and I don’t have anywhere to pay salaries to my employees from. I do not want to be a hospital manager who cannot pay salaries at the end of the month.
“This saga must stop,” he said. “We are not looking for medals or prizes, but that they will give us the means to do our job. I call on the ministries of Finance and Health: Do not let us become insolvent. You have the means to do it.”
Chen said that “public hospitals have been starving and deprived for many years. The healthcare system sees us as a stepson of the system, a negligible thing that can be starved, silenced and swept under the rug. We managed to move forward despite the famine, but the corona plague devoured our last cards.
“The Finance Ministry met with us and promised to give us equal funding, but did not keep its promises,” he said, adding that the hospitals want budgets from the government necessary to make up for funding shortfalls.
Marin said that the hospital directors were wasting precious time having to beg the government for money. “Instead of treating patients, we have to come day after day to beg the Finance Ministry for budgets. We started 2021 by the skin of our teeth. Seven hospitals here have no way to meet our payrolls at the end of the month.”
The empty beds that they set out at the beginning of the protest represent hospital beds that will be empty in a week because the hospitals will be able to treat only urgent cases, he said. “The Finance Ministry is sealed shut to the needs of the medical teams and the patients.”
Prof. Dror Mevorach, director of the coronavirus ward at Hadassah, published an editorial on Ynet in December in which he said that payments from the health funds never fully cover the hospitals’ operating costs.
“This impossible budgetary cycle has led to Israel’s health expenditure gradually declining to just 7.3% of the country’s GDP – significantly lower than European countries such as France and Germany,” he wrote. “It has also led to a steady deterioration of the healthcare infrastructure, while simultaneously fostering its dependence on what is essentially government largesse.”
The National Public Emergency Committee for the Coronavirus Pandemic released a statement today expressing concern about the hospitals: “The Corona Public Emergency Council, which has former senior members of the health system, is looking with frustration at the hospital administrators’ press conference and the situation the government has brought to the people at the forefront of the corona struggle. The lack of proper budgeting for hospitals by the government at this time is tantamount to abandoning the units fighting in the campaign.”
At the protest, Hakim addressed Finance Minister Israel Katz directly, saying: “You have a historic opportunity to sign off on the collapse of seven hospitals or to give them oxygen.”
As the hospital heads protested, the disease continued to spread. The South African COVID-19 mutation doubled, as four more cases of it were diagnosed, bringing the total to eight. One of the infected is a nine-year-old girl. Apparently, she became infected before the third lockdown regulations were tightened, and her teachers and classmates are being tested for the mutation.
There were 9,025 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, the Health Ministry announced Wednesday morning, with 7.2% of tests returning a positive result. Some 1,042 people are in serious condition, with 262 on ventilators. Some 3,770 people have died of the disease in Israel since the pandemic began.
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visited a Clalit Health Services clinic in Nazareth, along with Clalit chairman Yochanan Locker and Clalit CEO Prof. Ehud Davidson.
The prime minister said, “We are meeting here in Nazareth for the continuation of the ‘Back to Life’ vaccines operation. We are indeed getting back to life. We look at this operation as a global wonder, and it is being done thanks to our medical teams. The nurses, doctors, HMOs and the Health Ministry are doing excellent work. It is necessary to constantly channel more and more vaccines. I spoke again yesterday evening with Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla, and we have already spoken about the future, that there will be more vaccines and portions. We do not know when the disease could return and when we will need additional vaccines; therefore, we are working on this already now.”
He emphasized that Bourla told him that those who have been vaccinated stop carrying the disease within weeks, and said that he could already see the beginning of this, but admitted, “We still cannot say, in a precise and final manner, what happens when the second vaccination is given.”
Maayan Hoffman and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.