Director of Bankrupt Hadassah Medical Center Resigns

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Avigdor Kaplan, in the suit, at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, in March.Credit: Emil Salman

The director general of Hadassah Medical Center announced his resignation Monday, citing his opposition to the appointment of an outside auditor for the financially distressed organization’s two Jerusalem hospital campuses.

Avigdor Kaplan will be replaced in the interim by Dr. Tamar Yablonski-Peretz, who heads Hadassah’s Sharett Institute of Oncology. She has been appointed acting director general and is expected to remain in the position for at least the next several months.

“The outside auditor is due to take part in the ongoing management of Hadassah along with the director general, but without bearing responsibility for his [the auditor’s] actions,” Kaplan wrote in his resignation letter. “This is not appropriate for a hospital that deals with saving human lives and healing the sick.”

Before becoming Hadassah’s ninth director general last year, Kaplan, the first non-physician to direct the medical organization, helped make Israel’s largest health maintenance organization, Clalit, financially solvent and build Clal Insurance into the country’s largest insurance company, Hadassah said when it first appointed Kaplan.

But the appointment appears to have been too little too late, with Hadassah declaring bankruptcy in February. The hospital is running a deficit of 1.25 billion shekels ($360 million).

Kaplan said the government never responded to his request that the auditor not be granted the power to halt the hospital’s procurement of medicines and equipment. He was also critical of plans to significantly curtail the director general’s responsibility, part of a recovery plan for the medical center that was agreed upon two weeks ago by the Israeli government and the New York-based Hadassah women’s organization, which owns the medical center and appointed Kaplan to direct it.

Implementing the recovery plan requires “the confidence and full backing of the owner and the board of directors as well as assistance from the government in addition to appropriate supervision on their part,” wrote Kaplan, adding: “I came to the conclusion that under the circumstances that were created, I could not continue to fulfill my role as Hadassah director general and successfully implement the recovery plan.”

The plan calls for an injection of nearly 3 billion shekels over the next seven years, as well as the layoff of 30 doctors and researchers and hundreds of other staff members and the closure of a hospice care facility for terminally ill patients at the Mount Scopus campus.

Kaplan was making good on his earlier threat to quit over the auditor provision, which he said would impede his ability to run the medical center.

Health Minister Yael German thanked Kaplan for his work but said an external auditor was necessary.

“I regret his departure, and I am convinced that he could have implemented the recovery plan and rehabilitated Hadassah,” German said in a statement. “Nonetheless, in light of the difficult financial situation that Hadassah has encountered, an outside auditor is required by the situation and is a means by which the government can verify from up close that the recovery plan is being properly implemented. We will continue to stand by this requirement to ensure Hadassah’s recovery. I thank Avigdor Kaplan for his devoted work over the past year.”

The recovery plan provides for the appointment of a new director general and board chairman, but that will probably be deferred until early next year.

The board will appoint a search committee to select a new director from among its own members. The committee is to submit a unanimous recommendation of at least two candidates meeting set criteria, and the government has the right to veto the recommendations before the board is authorized to officially select the director.

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