Hadassah Hospital Paralyzed as Employees Refuse to Return to Work

As of Monday, the only emergency and birth services were in regular operation at the hospitals as employees protested outside of the Finance Ministry offices in Jerusalem.

Hadassah University Hospital employees continued their strike on Monday, bringing activities at both the Mount Scopus and Ein Karem campuses to a virtual standstill as administrative and custodial workers joined medical staff across the picket line.

Chairman of the medical labor federation, Leonid Edelman, said that no physician – nor intern or resident – would step foot in the hospital unless given a court-written guarantee for medical malpractice insurance even amid a stay of proceedings .

As of Monday, the only emergency and birth services were in regular operation at the hospitals as employees protested outside of the Finance Ministry offices in Jerusalem.

The hospital filed a request on Friday for court protection against creditors, after reaching an agreement with the treasury and the Hadassah Women’s Organization to provide it with a total of 100 million shekels ($28.3 million) over the next three months. The injection of funding is meant to enable the financially strapped hospital to meet its payroll and pay suppliers. The arrangement will also allow some breathing space to hash out a long-term recovery plan for the hospital, which has two medical centers in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem District Court is expected to hear the hospital's request for a protection order against creditors at 3 P.M. on Monday.

Health Ministry director-general, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, on Monday came out in support of the hospital's nationalization, telling the Knesset:  "Why didn’t Hadassah report on its difficult [financial] situation all these years?"

He added that when he asked the hospital about its finances, "They kicked me to the curb and said, 'We're a private hospital.' These hospitals don’t want to be regulated, but when they're in trouble, they come to ask for assistance. When they issue guidelines, they don’t ask for approval, and they don’t want oversight of their salaries and pay stubs. It was very convenient all these years…. They pushed aside our attempts to understand what was happening – and the first time I understood what was going on was from reading newspaper headlines."

The legal action comes in the wake of a move last week by Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank and Bank Leumi to cut off credit lines to the hospital and a doctors' strike over a pay dispute.

Hadassah said the court action was taken to head off paralysis of the hospital’s operations, legal action by creditors, a cutoff of the hospital’s revenue stream from medical treatment, donor contributions and government funds, and an actual shutdown of the two medical centers at Ein Karem and Mount Scopus.

The legal significance of the stay of proceedings is that it bars creditors, including employees, from seeking to collect debts owed by the hospital.

The interim funding will allow the hospital to continue its day-to-day operations. The court filing also calls for changes in the hospital bylaws that would change the composition of the hospital’s board, but not curb the rights of the New York-based Hadassah women’s organization in the hospital.

Although a recovery plan for the hospital as currently constituted may be put in place, theoretically the court trustee could recommend transferring the hospital to one of the country’s four health maintenance organizations, divesting the Hadassah women’s organization of all or part of its control. Another less likely option would be to convert Hadassah into a government hospital.

Emil Salman