Director of Hadassah Hospital Resigns in Light of Institution's Soaring Debt

Prof. Ehud Kokia will leave the Jerusalem hospital, which is currently struggling with a massive NIS 200 million debt, less than two years after becoming its director general.

The director-general of Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem resigned Tuesday morning, less than two years after stepping into the position.

Prof. Ehud Kokia submitted his resignation to the 21-member Hadassah board of directors.

Hadassah officials believe that Kokia, 62, resigned due to the hospital's dire financial situation, the extent of which is only just becoming clear. The hospital's current deficit forecast for the year 2013 is a staggering NIS 200 million.

According to a joint statement released by the hospital, the board of directors and the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which owns the hospital, a few months into the start of Kokia's term at the helm, it became clear that Hadassah's financial situation was much more serious than previously believed. Both the deficit in the hospital's cash flow, as well as its repercussions, had been underestimated, the statement said, with Hadassah now facing difficulties similar to many public hospitals in Israel. Taking stock of the situation, the statement continued, Kokia made the decision to submit his resignation.

To face these new challenges, the Hadassah Medical Center has launched a financial recovery program. An international firm specializing in economic advice will launch an in-depth analysis of the hospital's finances and submit strategies to dramatically cut costs.

Hadassah also says they have made an appeal to the government for emergency financial aid.

A meeting with the heads of the women's organization is scheduled for next week at a conference in Florida.

In the coming days, Esti Dominissini, chairman of the Hadassah board of directors, is expected to appoint a search committee for a new hospital general director. Kokia, meanwhile, has pledged to stay on in his position for three more months to allow the hospital time to find a replacement and to oversee an orderly transition.

Kokia was named director-general of Hadassah in March 2011, following a highly-publicized tussle between the hospital's doctors' committees and the women's organization over the decision not to renew the appointment of the previous director-general, Prof. Shlomo Mor Yosef, after 10 years and two terms in the position.

A compromise was hatched, and Mor Yosef stepped down after the dedication of the new hospitalization tower at Hadassah Ein Karem. He was later appointed director-general of the National Insurance Institute.

Kokia stepped into the role on November 1, 2011. He previously worked as a senior doctor in the gynecology and obstetrics wing at Sheba Medical Center, and as medical director and director-general of the Maccabi health maintenance organization.

Two months ago, the Hadassah Women's Organization celebrated 100 years since its founding in Israel. In an interview with Haaretz to mark the occasion, Joyce Rabin, who holds the organization's hospitals portfolio, said that the New York headquarters of the organization has no intention of loosening its reins on the hospital's management.

In recent years, despite suffering significant losses in the wake of the Bernie Madoff fraud scandal, the organization rebounded financially and completed its fundraising for the new Hadassah Ein Karem Davidson Tower for inpatients, at the cost of $363 million.

Upon the dedication of the 19-story tower, the women's organization set the following goals: development of new research complexes in Hadassah Ein Karem's old building, in order to stimulate collaboration between various medical professions; the increase of outpatient activity in the hospital and the upgrade of Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital, including the construction of a new obstetrics wing in the complex.

In a letter to the organization at the time, Hadassah President Marcie Natan noted that Hadassah Medical Center is a top priority. She urged them to hire a consulting firm and consider additional cash flow options to weather the current financial storm and emerge more stable and secure.

Ofer Vaknin