Hadassah Hospital employees striking, Feb. 10, 2014.
Hadassah Hospital employees striking, Feb. 10, 2014. Sign reads, 'Save the medicine at Hadassah.' Photo by Emil Salman
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Even those who are used to the massive waste and failed management that exists in substantial parts of the public sector are having a hard time absorbing what’s been going on at the Hadassah hospitals. It’s as if one organization, which, though privately owned, serves and is funded by the public, contracted all the illnesses of the public sector and took them to the extreme, resulting now in bankruptcy.

From the stay of proceedings request that management submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, it looks like every group of Hadassah employees was preoccupied with one major struggle – how to obtain the highest possible pay. The doctors did this with a second shift that started in the middle of the workday, and by providing private medical services under the Sharap arrangement that instead of starting at 4 P.M. as intended, often started during the morning hours, for which the doctors were receiving their regular salaries. Doctors were also being paid for being on call when it wasn’t justified, and were getting other benefits that raised their salaries beyond what the hospital could pay.

The administrative and housekeeping employees also achieved exceptional benefits, such as “administrative readiness” pay for positions that do not require being on call. According to the stay request, 95 percent of these on-call shifts were superfluous, and most of these workers were also paid for unnecessary global and fictitious overtime hours, making their salaries also much more than the hospital could afford. Moreover, all the hospital’s employees, retirees and their families – some 25,000 people – were getting free medical care from the hospital and dental care at a substantial discount.

Hadassah runs two major Jerusalem medical centers and cannot be allowed to collapse. The state has no choice but to shell out huge sums of money in grants and loans in an effort to get the medical organization back on its feet. But these taxpayer funds must only be provided on condition that all the hospital employees agree to a painful recovery plan. Such a plan must include dismissals at all levels and in all departments; eliminating exceptional wage components; reduced wages for everyone; canceling the free medical care benefits; reducing operating expenses; the sale of real estate. and proposals for increasing revenues. If the hospital staffers do not agree, and soon, there is no reason not to appoint a liquidator and void all existing agreements.

The number of employees, along with their wages and conditions, must be determined by logical criteria that the hospital can handle, and this must be achieved as quickly as possible. The crisis and the acceptance of state funds require a revolution in the hospital’s organizational culture and financial management.