Sheba Hospital Head Apologizes for 'Spying On' Doctors

Medical center used application on cell phone to track whereabouts of physicians.

A day after the publication of a report in which Sheba Medical Center admitted to tracking physicians' whereabouts using their cell phones, hospital management seems to have changed its approach.

In a personal letter to all staff doctors on staff, hospital director Prof. Zeev Rothstein explained his credo regarding attendance tracking and apologized for what some physicians called management's "surveillance" of them through the mobile application they use.

"I believe the time clock can benefit the doctors," Rothstein wrote. "They work hard, put in many hours, and the clock can contribute to their proper compensation.

"I want to believe that at the end of the process, once it's been internalized and becomes routine, that Sheba doctors will understand that they are not slaves or working for free, and can earn even more. It might not be the level of earnings that I'd want to see public health doctors get, but it's more than now, and that's also something," he wrote.

"There are those who talk about using a heavy hand against doctors who refuse to clock in, about imposing painful sanctions. I do not share those opinions," he wrote. "Those who know me know I'm not a man of sticks and clubs. One has to explain things patiently and give the process the time it needs.

"At issue is the fear of change, and that's normal," he wrote. "Nor can we ignore the lack of faith in the system, the result of the past half year, which was very difficult on the public health system."

Rothstein concluded by apologizing, "if any of our doctors was personally insulted by the way in which I verified their reporting."

An article in Sunday's Haaretz quoted Sheba physicians who said management was using the mobile app they use to clock in and out of work when off campus to track their every move.

The collective bargaining agreement signed with the state last year allows hospital physicians to count time spent teaching or attending seminars as time spent at work.

One doctor claimed Rothstein had been using the time clock "as if it were a weapon, demanding authorization for every move, calling doctors and pestering them with questions such as 'what were you doing at such-and-such a place at that time."

The union contract specifically states that the application is meant to record only start and stop times, not to track the physicians' locations.

Sheba confirmed that it had checked doctors' locations through their cell phones in February, after noticing that many of the physicians were clocking in from off-campus. The hospital said it got the information from the company operating the remote attendance system, ok2go, in accordance with a clause in the doctors' contract that permitted occasional monitoring.

The hospital said more than 50 percent of its doctors reported they were working when they were at their home addresses in February, which it said may have been do to a software malfunction.

"Our continuing examination indicates a failure in the smartphone reporting in a small percentage of reports, and that in fact 90 percent of the sign-ins took place in work locations," the hospital said on Sunday.

According to ok2go, in the month to date 98 percent of the doctors' sign-ins have been accurately recorded.