Parents of Cancer Patients to Fight Closure of Jerusalem Hospital Department

'Our struggle has only one purpose, to have our children cared for by a team that is one of the best in the world.'

Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital.
Michal Fattal

Parents of children in a cancer ward in a Jerusalem hospital plan to take the health minister to court over the department’s imminent closure.

The pediatric hemato-oncology department of Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, was thrown into confusion last week when its head, Prof. Michael Weintraub, and five senior colleagues tendered their resignations, effective in June. Weintraub approached Shaare Tzedek Medical Center several months ago and was accepted to work there. The hospital is keeping a low profile so as not to be seen as intervening in his conflict with Hadassah.

Hadassah Medical Center Director General Prof. Zeev Rotstein announced last week that Dr. Gal Goldstein, a senior physician in the equivalent department at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, would replace Weintraub.

The parents plan to file a petition in the High Court of Justice against Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. They say he refused to approve the opening of a new department at Shaare Zedek, also in Jerusalem, depriving their children of optimal care. The parents say Litzman has not agreed to meet with them. An aide to the minister said an equivalent department would not be created at Shaare Zedek.

“Since last week there has been an incessant stream of parents coming to the archive to get the medical files so that their child can get continuous care elsewhere,” said Moshe Benitah, the father of a former patient in the ward who died two years ago.

“Our struggle has only one purpose, to have our children cared for by a team that is one of the best in the world,” Benitah said, adding: “We’re not defending the doctors and are only concerned about the children. This option is now blocked by Rotstein and Litzman.”

Litzman’s opposition to opening a new department is puzzling to parents and other health officials. In April, Shaare Tzedek established a neurosurgery department. In 2010 four senior gastroenterologists left Hadassah for Shaare Tzedek. “The competition with Hadassah has not been a problem before, so why now?” Benitah said. “We feel there is something hidden under the surface, driving everything.”