Hadassah Crisis Precipitates Nationwide Labor Dispute

YERUSHALAYIM -

The impasse in efforts to resolve the financial crisis at Hadassah Medical Organization has now resulted in a Histadrut threat of a general health-workers strike, as well as the threat of a permanent shutdown from Hadassah trustees.

The Histadrut labor federation declared a work dispute in the public health care system on Thursday, which includes all public hospitals in Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Histadrut deputy secretary-general Avi Nissenkorn said the decision came as Treasury negotiations over the future of HMO remained in “deadlock.”

Nissenkorn told the Knesset Finance Committee on Wednesday, “There is a limit to how much can be taken away from its employees.”

“More than 500 Hadassah administrative workers have been or will be fired,” he said. “It is shameful that the state of Israel acts this way toward Yerushalayim residents and Hadassah employees.”

Nissenkorn assigned blame for the worsening crisis to the Finance Ministry. “There is one address” for a solution to the medical organization’s financial problems: the Finance Ministry, he told the MKs. He said the Treasury was making more demands even though the workers’ pay had been cut by NIS 80 million.

“We asked over a year ago for negotiations to solve the Hadassah matter, but Treasury and Health Ministry officials refused to sit,” he added.

Hadassah director general Avigdor Kaplan joined in criticism of the Finance Ministry, telling the Knesset committee that it waited too long to join the talks and propose solutions. Kaplan also said that the Treasury is making new demands that have previously been rejected by the Histadrut and hospital employees.

Meanwhile, the trustees of the Hadassah Medical Center have filed for liquidation of the medical center with its two hospitals. According to Haaretz, they said that if a solution is not found by next Tuesday, the trustees will present their own plan, which would not be subject to negotiation. If that plan is not accepted, they would have to pursue liquidation.

The trustees disclosed that the state has offered to convert Hadassah into a state-supported institution as a condition for financing its debts. But this would only be feasible on condition that Hadassah employees would be subject to the same wage rates, regulations and supervision that are the norm at other state-owned hospitals.

Hadassah has an accumulated deficit of 1.25 billion shekels ($360 million). Since the court intervened, the medical center’s financial situation has become even more dire, as revenues have declined, partly as a result of a 16-day strike by employees.