Bikur Holim Hospital in Jerusalem
Bikur Holim Hospital in Jerusalem. A merger might be the last chance to save the institution, which is mired in debt. Photo by Emil Salman
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Nurses and other employees at the Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem ended their strike on Tuesday, and all hospital departments resumed normal activities, following an agreement ensuring back pay to all employees for the month of September.

Work stoppages throughout the hospital, primarily in the maternity ward, began on Sunday, with hospital employees saying they had not been paid in full for the month of September.

The Health Ministry reported that the agreement to pay the employees' salaries was reached with the help of mediation from Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. Once employees received the remainder of their September salaries, they returned to their posts.
 
Prior to the agreement, the Jerusalem Labor Court declared that the hospital employees were entitled to strike, if they indeed did not receive their salaries. The court decided not to issue orders forcing employees to return to work.

Bikur Holim employees closed the entrance to the hospital's maternity ward this week, effectively turning away women in labor from the hospital.

Bikur Holim's 225 nurses, 125 paramedics and 180 administrative and janitorial staff who are members of the Histadrut labor federation participated in the strike.

The 120 doctors on Bikur Holim's staff, continued to work however, although they had declared a workplace dispute, through the Israel Medical Association, and threatened to strike within one week, if their salaries remained unpaid.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported that negotiations continue over transferring the hospital's management to Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, which would allow the hospital to continue functioning despite its dire financial straits.

Because of financial difficulties,  the hospital began operating every day under weekend conditions roughly two weeks ago, and since then the hospital ceased admitting patients for overnight stays. Last Tuesday, the Health Ministry closed the hospital's emergency room, and on Sunday, the maternity ward was closed as well.

Bikur Holim was founded 176 years ago, in the alleys of Jerusalem's Old City, as a clinic for terminal patients, and was later moved to its current location in central Jerusalem.

This week a council was created to take the place of the hospital's administrator, Nimrod Tzach, and was charged with finding a solution that will allow Bikur Holim to continue functioning.