The crisis at financially strapped Hadassah University Hospital, which earlier in the week saw its doctors go out on strike, has deepened, with banks now halting credit to the medical organization and providers of essential products such as food, fuel and medications, cutting off supplies.
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Mizrahi-Tefahot bank and Bank Leumi have cut off their lines of credit to Hadassah, which is sponsored by the U.S.-based Hadassah women’s organization and maintains two separate Jerusalem hospital campuses. The banks have also attached payments to Hadassah from the country’s health maintenance organizations as well as maternity payments from the National Insurance Institute.
Hospital staff were only paid half their usual salaries this month, and the current crisis leaves Hadassah unable to come up with about 60 million shekels ($17 million) needed to pay the other half. In recent months, the country’s health maintenance organizations have given the hospital advance payment so that it could meet hospital salaries for the last quarter of 2013. Hadassah anticipates a deficit this year of NIS 400 million, compared to NIS 300 million in 2013.
Nursing and maintenance staff have threatened to join the striking doctors in walking off the job on Sunday if they don’t get the balance of their salaries. Ilana Cohen, who heads the national nurses union, suggested that the labor action could also spread to involve nurses at the country’s other hospitals.
On Wednesday, the hospital administration informed the Health Ministry that a large number of the hospital’s suppliers, including those providing medicines, food and fuel as well as cleaning and security services, had cut off deliveries to the hospital following the banks’ refusal to provide lines of credit to Hadassah. The hospital also alerted the ministry to the prospect that the entire hospital, other than the emergency room, would have to be shut down next week due to the crisis, requiring the transfer of more than 1,100 patients to other hospitals.
In a letter to Health Ministry Director General Roni Gamzu, the director of Hadassah’s campus at Ein Karem, Yuval Weiss, said Hadassah was considering filing a request for a back-to-work order to its striking doctors, but acknowledged that such an order would not permit the hospital to function in the absence of food and heat. The doctors launched their strike after negotiations with management broke down over an agreement that would have provided salary concessions on the doctors’ part. One sticking point was the doctors’ insistence that the salary reductions be in the form of a loan rather than an outright wage cut.
For his part, however, one government source expressed skepticism that Hadassah was doing everything in its power to resolve the crisis. “The feeling is that Hadassah isn’t going out of its way to find a solution and that the current crisis is at its initiation,” the official said. “They assume [at Hadassah] that this will increase the pressure on the government to come to an agreement [on additional funding].” Sources at Hadassah reacted angrily to this suggestion, noting that they have no control over the conduct of the banks. “As far as we are concerned, the hospital can be dismantled and rebuilt, but that would cost the state a billion shekels,” a hospital source said.
On Tuesday of next week, the Knesset Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the situation at Hadassah. Government representatives will be called upon at the session to explain how the state intends to proceed on the matter. Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) has called on the government to intervene.