Hadassah hospitals stay on emergency schedule as staff demands pay

HMO’s former director-general lashes out at Treasury for knowing about problems and not acting.

A room stands empty at Hadassah-University Medical Center. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A room stands empty at Hadassah-University Medical Center.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Nurses, administrative employees and maintenance workers of the Hadassah Medical Organization decided on Wednesday to continue their sanctions at Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses until further notice, as they kept up their demands to receive their January salaries in full.
HMO spokeswoman Racheli Goldblatt said the Jerusalem District Court decision to freeze the organization’s debts to suppliers and banks meant that in exchange, the government would immediately transfer NIS 50 million to Hadassah, matched by the same amount from the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA ).
The freeze will make it possible for HMO to function and pay workers so the hospitals can continue operating, she said.
“The first thing is to pay salaries,” she said. “Everyone received 50 percent of their January paychecks at the beginning of February, while the rest will be paid differentially.
Those who earn up to NIS 10,000 [a month] will get all of what they are owed, while those who earn more – for example, HMO director- general Avigdor Kaplan, who earns NIS 100,000 monthly – will get only 30%.”
It was not clear whether the employees would halt the sanctions that have crippled the hospital’s functioning and sent patients streaming to financially robust Shaare Zedek Medical Center – or whether they would continue to protest the management’s plans to dismiss hundreds of personnel and cut wages temporarily or permanently.
The Histadrut labor federation said the failure to pay the full wages of 6,000 HMO employees meant that ambulatory care, including outpatient clinics, diagnostic institutes and day hospitals, would continue to remain closed.
Only urgent care will be available; emergency rooms and delivery rooms are running on a reduced Shabbat schedule.
Meanwhile, a few kilometers north of Hadassah’s Ein Kerem campus, Shaare Zedek has been receiving 350 patients a day at its regular emergency department and more than 100 children at its pediatric emergency department – instead of the total of 260 that it usually receives within 24 hours.
Shaare Zedek’s director-general, Prof. Jonathan Halevy, called on his staffers to show up in full to cope with the additional patients. More beds, clean laundry, medical equipment and disposables have been brought in. The number of operations has risen by 20% in recent days, as has the demand for outpatient clinics and diagnostic institutes.
Also on Wednesday, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef – HMO’s longtime former director-general, who left in 2011 and became director-general of the National Insurance Institute – made a public statement for the first time since he was accused of earning large sums in bonuses and severance pay from the medical organization.
Speaking at a session devoted to NII’s own deficits, Mor-Yosef said he had not actually taken the bonuses of over NIS 1m. from HMO, even though they had been offered to him when he left. He also accused the Treasury and HWZOA of having known about the severe financial decline of HMO but “not doing anything, and even preventing solutions” when they could be found.
For four years, he said, “I was a successful director-general of Soroka University Medical Center [in Beersheba], and then 11 years director-general of HMO, and now at NII. I led Hadassah to its peak, medically, physically, in infrastructure and in research. I raised NIS 1.5 billion in donations and led the building of the new Hospitalization Tower, which will supply hospital care for the next 50 years.”
The health system, he went on, “is built on deficits as a method. Public sources for healthcare must grow. The presentation that HWZOA and the Treasury have made is tendentious and made to look like an objective document. They are involved in everything.
HWZOA’s financial director participates in all management forums.
They reduce their financial support drastically and want the debts to be paid from workers’ wages. The hospitals can’t survive without funding from the women, the owners.”
The medical organization’s situation “was known to both of them [HWZOA and the Treasury], but they let it decline. They opposed my attempt to raise money directly for the hospitals and even to set up a friends organization in Israel,” because they wanted to monopolize fund-raising, Mor-Yosef claimed.
“The hospitals are cynically taken advantage of to raise money for the Hadassah women’s projects in the US.... If the financial support given now had been given three years ago, we would not have reached this situation, but the Treasury goes into action only when an organization is dying,” he said.
He maintained that to divert the fire from the real causes of the difficulties, “they aim at me, the staff and the doctors – and they are not the problem.
Honoring wage agreements is [an accepted thing to do], and not the problem. The effort to make the matter personal and not national will not succeed. Let them open my severance agreement, and I will accept what is decided. They forgot to note that I never took the bonuses that were coming to me.”
The Knesset plenum also discussed the medical organization’s troubles.
Labor Party and opposition leader Isaac Herzog said the government had known about the impending crisis “but did nothing about it except to talk.”
Medical interns who work long shifts at Hadassah’s hospitals and earn very low pay complained on Wednesday that they were drowning in debts.
Nearly 90 interns were sent to Hadassah to work 11 months ago in a lottery of hospital positions.
They are caught in the middle, said Yael Holtzberg, who is six weeks away from getting her medical doctor’s degree. “We can’t resign, on the one hand, and we don’t have an official works committee on the other. We work full-time plus at least four shifts per month of 24 hours apiece.”