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The struggle over funding for Clalit hospitals has pitted the health and acting finance ministers against each other, as they showed Monday in a discordant display of loathing.

The Clalit union decided Monday to hold a slowdown at all 14 of the hospitals that fall under the health maintenance organization's network, in a show of solidarity with Yoseftal Medical Center. The Eilat hospital says the Finance Ministry owes it NIS 18 million to finance regular activity.

The Clalit hospitals are operating on emergency mode. Non-urgent surgery is being postponed, the labs will conduct only those tests necessary to save lives, and the out-patient clinics are shuttered.

Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, who took up the portfolio after Benjamin Netanyahu quit the government, denied Monday that he is holding back money owed to Yoseftal. He said the money had already been transferred to the Health Ministry.

If Health Minister Dan Naveh had spent more of his time handling matters at his ministry, Olmert said, the crisis could have been resolved.

"Danny Naveh is the worst health minister the State of Israel has ever had," Olmert said.

In response, Naveh said there are no limits to the chutzpah and cynicism of Olmert, and said he would be wiser not to preach about how to handle a ministry.

Naveh did confirm that the Health Ministry had received the money for Yoseftal, but claimed the treasury was preventing it from being transferred to the hospital.

The leader of the Clalit union, Prof. Yosef Ben-Hamo, said that unless the money arrives, Yoseftal might have to shut down entirely.

"It is a hospital serving 57,000 residents of Eilat and the surrounding towns," he said. "It also serves the army bases and the two million tourists and visitors who come to Eilat each year."

He said the hospital's 300 employees are not striking for higher salaries or better conditions, but only to express their concern for the institution's continuing situation. The closest hospital to Yoseftal is Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, a three-hour drive away.