Hadassah: Still on the Brink

YERUSHALAYIM -
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman addressing a plenum session in the Knesset to discuss the Hadassah hospital crisis.  (Miriam Alster/FLASH90 )
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman addressing a plenum session in the Knesset to discuss the Hadassah hospital crisis. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The as-yet unresolved financial crisis that threatens the closure of Hadassah Medical Organization hospitals in Yerushalayim veered back to emergency mode on Wednesday as the Histadrut warned of a work action on Thursday morning if progress in negotiations were not forthcoming.

General Labor Federation deputy secretary-general Avi Nissenkorn said Wednesday that the workers’s patience is running out.

“The way the Finance and Health Ministries are conducting themselves in the talks will lead to HMO being dismantled. We will not agree,” he stressed. “The workers have made enough concessions.”

Without significant movement to end the crisis, warned Nissenkorn, the two HMO hospitals would be put on emergency schedule starting Thursday at 10 AM, and thousands of Hadassah employees would “take to the streets” and demonstrate.

Health Minister Yael German told the Knesset plenum on Tuesday that the government has been mounting a concerted effort to hammer out a recovery plan, and progress has been made, but that it’s more than a matter of releasing emergency funding for the hospitals.

“The government has to take responsibility for the Hadassah Medical Organization, but in exchange it must get authority” to make decisions, German said.

She added that any funds given to bail out the financially shaky institution and its two hospitals “will come at the expense of the public health system.”

The health minister explained that the Treasury and her ministry had drawn up a plan for HMO that would stabilize it on a permanent basis, and not just to get muddle throught two or three years.

“We want this to be the last crisis. It’s not a matter of giving NIS 50 million, more or less. The government plans to invest hundreds of millions of shekels targeted for the whole public health system which you [MKs] have said is starving for funds. But giving money to Hadassah [which is a public health institution but owned by the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America] means that it will be at the expense of the public health system.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

“Today, we don’t have the authority to see its financial records or to demand the dismissal of administrators, appoint a board of directors or dismantle the board. This must be changed.”

Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen said the danger of the collapse of HMO is unthinkable. “For over 65 years it has treated Holocaust survivors, and this incredible institution gives service with the greatest sensitivity. On the one hand, the state invests millions in Holocaust survivors, and this is right … HMO workers should not have to say thank you, but we should tell them thank you.”

United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to intervene to help solve the crisis in the capital’s only major hospital.

“They should have entered the picture six months ago, at the onset of the crisis,” he said.

Rabbi Litzman also faulted German for not standing up for the doctors and nurses in the dispute, as he had done during his tenure as Deputy Health Minister, as they are the backbone of the healthcare system.

He rejected German’s contention that interim funding was not viable, noting that when as when he was in the Ministry emergency funds were made available to keep certain hospitals from financial collapse, and the same should be done now. Every month that passes without a solution, he said, results in increasing the HMO debt by tens of millions of shekels.