Chairman of Bikur Holim hospital resigns
Blames board of debt-ridden Jerusalem hospital for blocking merger with Hadassah or Shaare Zedek.
Zvi Tropp, voluntary board chairman of Jerusalem's Bikur Holim hospital, quit last week, blaming the board for trying to sabotage a merger being sought between Bikur Holim and Hadassah University Hospital or Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
A merger could be the last chance to save heavily indebted Bikur Holim from closing down. The health and finance ministries are advancing the merger with the support of the hospital's medical staff.
Tropp, previously chairman of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, wrote the hospital management, doctors and workers union that he had quit because of "growing efforts to foil the merger moves with steps that breached proper conduct and the work culture I was brought up on. The straw that broke the camel's back was the attempt to appoint a manager-adviser to the hospital, at the cost of NIS 60,000 to NIS 70,000 a month, in an improper procedure without defining the position's output. I concluded that under these terms, I cannot continue sharing responsibility with people acting in a way I don't believe in and tendered my resignation."
Tropp was referring to the appointment of Dov Goldfriend, until last year CEO of Bank Poalei Agudat Israel.
The appointment is seen by Tropp and others who oppose it as an unnecessary expense, made without the required tender, with the intention of sabotaging the merger with one of the large Jerusalem hospitals.
Bikur Holim has almost closed down several times in recent years due to its large debts. The hospital's directors were replaced several times and its staff's wages were held up repeatedly.
The hospital's previous director, Moshe Hevroni, resigned a few months ago after the treasury refused to give the hospital a NIS 9 million grant to balance its budget.
"We reached the conclusion the hospital could no longer exist merely on its income from selling services, and in order to develop it needs a stable, external funding source," Tropp told Haaretz.
"In contrast to other large medical centers, Bikur Holim has no large donations that can be directed to upgrade equipment and beds. After the previous board chairman resigned I remained the responsible adult, and I saw saving the hospital as a mission," he said.
"Having no external funding source, the only way to save the hospital - in my opinion and in the opinion of its previous director - is to merge it with one of the large medical centers in Jerusalem. The Finance Ministry agreed to advance the move," Tropp said.
The hospital's executive board objected to the merger and tried to appoint Goldfriend as a way to thwart it, said Tropp.
"I have nothing personal against Goldfriend, but if we're going for a merger there's no point in appointing a managing director or adviser for a month or two, because the hospital we'll merge with will appoint their own managing director. That's why I objected, not to mention the cost of an extra NIS 60,000 to NIS 70,000 a month. That's why I quit," he said.
On Sunday morning the board members sent Tropp a reply, rejecting his arguments. "We believe there's a need for such a unique hospital. ... Therefore an absolute majority of the general assembly of the hospital non-profit organization that runs Bikur Holim is in favor of cooperating with other hospitals, but not merging with them, especially since no other hospital has proposed such a move yet," they wrote. "The general assembly and board never approved the merger and no move was made to foil it."
As for Goldfriend, his appointment and salary, the board members wrote: "We chose to hire management and economic consulting services for a much lower fee than mentioned in your letter, to examine medical and financial methods of continuing the hospital's unique way."
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry intends to check the executive board members' move. Health Ministry director-general Roni Gamzu said: "The ministry asked the registrar of non-profit organizations for explanations about those financial issues. The planned merger with Hadassah or Shaare Zedek was run by the treasury and there was a feeling it was progressing. ... We still believe merging with one of the other hospitals, while remaining in its location in Jerusalem, is more applicable than its continuing to operate independently."