Health Ministry: Hadassah Must Change Radically or It Will Fold

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Striking Hadassah doctors in Jerusalem, Feb. 9, 2014. Signs read "Save medicine at Hadassah."Credit: Emil Salman

A year after a recovery program was put into effect for Hadassah Medical Center, with hundreds of millions of shekels subsequently injected into it, the hospital is still running a huge deficit and is threatened with collapse.

“The Health Ministry is alert to the danger of Hadassah’s imminent collapse,” a ministry official who asked not be identified told TheMarker. “If there’s no real change there, including the appointment of a professional CEO who knows how to captain a ship and change course 180 degrees, Hadassah will collapse. Everyone is talking like that.”

Last week Amnon Bruchian, the Hadassah workers committee chief, told staff that the medical center was running a deficit of 18 million shekels ($4.7 million) a month and that employees should expect another wage cut. Yaakov Litzman, the deputy health minister, warned Hadassah could fail with two months.

Prof. Zeev Rothstein has been tapped as a new head for Hadassah, but his appointment is being held up by questions about his long tenure as CEO of Sheba Medical Center. Last week a disciplinary complaint was filed against him in connection with his role in allowing private surgical procedures to take place in the hospital during hours doctors were supposed to be serving patients in the public medical system.

On top of that, the Finance Ministry found shortcomings in the way Sheba has managed its real estate holdings and money.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has been examining the issue of whether Rothstein’s appointment can move forward despite the accusations against him, and is expected to decide within the next several days. None of the major parties – the board, the workers committee nor the Hadassah Women’s Organization – oppose his nomination.

In a series of sharply worded letters over the past week, Bruchian has accused the hospital’s administration of covering up Hadassah’s deteriorating financial situation and “is acting in a way that exacerbates the serious financial situation the hospital is in,” and engaging in “enormous extravagance.”

In a letter sent yesterday he threatened to reveal documents showing outsized payments to legal and strategic consultants.

But Tamar Peretz, who has been acting CEO since Avigdor Kaplan resigned a year ago, insisted Hadassah was in good shape.

“We are in a period of financial recovery following a deficit of more than 1.3 billion shekels,” she wrote. “I am confident that just as we have done up until now to pay salaries on time and in full, including fringe benefits like health payments, we will continue to in the future.”

Peretz said that for the first time in several years, the medical center is breaking even. It has debt reaching 150 million shekels, but she attributed that to the “arbitrary decisions of the health maintenance organizations to make payments required under the law.”

She accused Bruchian of refusing to meet with her and called on him to act “responsibly.”

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