Gaydamak doesn't intend to sell Bikur Holim 'for now'
Russian-Israeli billionaire says now is "not a good time for business deals."
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Although furious about the meager support he received from his targeted haredi community for his run for Jerusalem mayor, billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak says he does "not intend for now" to sell Bikur Holim Hospital in the center of town that he purchased a year ago because "it is not a good time for business deals."
When he bought the hospital, many of whose patients are from the haredi community, he told the official receiver officially that he would run it as a general hospital for at least five years and had the intention of doing so for "at least 15 years."
Gaydamak, whose main interest in buying the then-bankrupt hospital was allegedly to garner haredi votes, bought the property for $35 million, some of which has gone to pay pensions to retirees after the previous management (a non-profit organization headed for some time by mayoral candidate MK Meir Porush) failed to make all necessary deposits to pension funds and the tax authorities.
The Globes newspaper claimed late last week that Gaydamak was negotiating the sale of the hospital with Dr. Shmuel and Ronit Levinger, who run the for-profit Enayim Lasik and cataract surgery clinic chain.
However, Gaydamak denied this, saying he was not negotiating with anyone. The Levingers had wanted to purchase Bikur Holim last year, but they offered only about a third of the money proposed by Gaydamak and did not intend to run it as a general hospital.
Bikur Holim hospital doctors union head Dr. Effie Halperin told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that he hoped Gaydamak would remain the owner, as he had committed himself to the official receiver.
If not, Halperin said the employees hoped the hospital would be sold to someone who intends to run the venerable medical institution - the oldest Jewish hospital in Eretz Yisrael - as a non-profit general hospital and not to turn it into a real estate bonanza.
He noted that because Dudi Zilbershlag, a haredi publisher who is chairman of the hospital's executive board, campaigned for Gaydamak's failed mayoral-race opponent Porush, there was a "disconnection" between the owners and the board. He added that there was no full-time hospital director-general either.
Dr. Raphael Pollack, named by Gaydamak as acting director-general as well as medical director, is an obstetrician who specializes in turning fetuses around in the womb and continues to do this in the hospital, leaving what Halperin said was "inadequate time" for running the institution.
Gaydamak showed the door to Bari Bar-Zion, the economist lent several years ago by the Finance Ministry to run Bikur Holim until the Russian billionaire bought it. But Bar-Zion, who reportedly complained about "improper practices" by the ownership, is suing Gaydamak for alleged failure to meet salary commitments to him.
Since Bar-Zion left, the hospital has reportedly been losing over NIS 1 million a month, and Gaydamak has had to cover that from his own pocket.
Halperin said the Globes story did not induce any of Bikur Holim's staffers to look for a new job, as they had heard many stories before. Bikur Holim's spokesman and Pollack declined to comment.
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