Four Managers Resign From Bikur Holim as Hospital Clings to Hope

As Jerusalem's Bikur Holim hospital continues to fight for its life, four members of the hospital's management committee resigned yesterday. At the same time, the Histadrut labor federation declared a labor dispute at the hospital, enabling its employees to go on strike in another two weeks.

Bikur Holim has asked the finance and health ministries for an injection of NIS 30 million to get it through the next year, and warned that without this money, the remaining two members of the management committee will have to resign by the end of this month - a step that would force the hospital to shut its doors.

Last week, the Knesset Finance Committee asked the ministries to respond to this request by tonight. But so far, the ministries have not responded, and yesterday the Finance Committee postponed its planned meeting on the subject to next week.

Bikur Holim employs some 600 people. Some of them demonstrated yesterday opposite the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv, where many senior health system officials were attending an annual conference on health policy. Earlier this week, employees and doctors demonstrated in Jerusalem to urge the government to save the hospital.

Also this week, the Bikur Holim association, which runs the hospital, threatened to sue businessman Arcadi Gaydamak, who bought the hospital's assets in 2007, for violating his end of the deal - which was to cover the hospital's operating expenses. Gaydamak, who ran for mayor of Jerusalem in 2008, stopped funding Bikur Holim after he lost the race to Nir Barkat and ever since, the hospital's deficit has been ballooning.

Meanwhile, Gaydamak recently billed Bikur Holim for NIS 736,000 a month in exchange for the privilege of using the assets he now owns, as well as NIS 30 million to cover past usage. Bikur Holim rejects this demand, saying he promised in the purchase agreement to let the hospital use the premises for the next five years rent-free.

The treasury said in response that Bikur Holim is a private hospital, and if it can't survive it should start bankruptcy proceedings in court. "In the context of these [proceedings], the government will formulate its position, in accordance with the interests of the patients," it added.

The Health Ministry said that Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman will do everything he can to persuade the treasury to supply the necessary funds.