Just-retired Israeli Supreme Court Judge Mediating Hadassah Crisis

Elyakim Rubinstein to report to court Thursday morning on effort to settle dispute over treatment of children with cancer

Parents of children from the Hadassah cancer ward hold a media conference in the "field hospital" they set up in Jerusalem's Sacher Park, June 4, 2017.
Oliveir Fitoussi

Recently retired Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein on Wednesday began mediating the dispute over Hadassah hospital’s treatment of children suffering from cancer. Rubinstein is meant to report to the court by 11 A.M. Thursday on his progress.

The dispute has led to a high-profile demonstration by the children’s parents, who have pitched a protest tent in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park, with some of them starting a hunger strike this week. They halted their strike, however, in response to a request by Rubenstein.

The court dispute pits the Health Ministry and Hadassah management against doctors in the pediatric hemato-oncology (blood disease and cancer) department who resigned from Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem earlier this month. 

The High Court of Justice had sent the two sides in the dispute to mediation on Tuesday, in its first hearing on a petition filed by parents whose children were being treated at the Hadassah department. Rubinstein asked the parents of children who had been treated at the department to stop their hunger strike, but they refused, though they said they would reconsider the request later if the other parties made any concessions.

Hadassah Medical Center director Zeev Rotstein said he would prefer to see the physicians return to Hadassah. “I understand that Micky [Michael Weintraub, the department’s former director], who took 60 people with him on an adventure to try to move them all to Shaare Zedek, has a problem with standing up and saying, ‘I’ve failed.’ If he wants to come back, I will be his true partner.”

The petition was filed against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and the Health Ministry, along with Rotstein, the nine doctors who resigned, and the Israel Medical Association. Rubinstein was scheduled to meet Wednesday with all the respondents, as well as the parents and the doctors.

The parents had demanded that Shaare Zedek be allowed to open its own hemato-oncology department, that Rotstein be dismissed from Hadassah and that a criminal investigation be launched against him and Litzman.

“We’re pleased that someone is finally hearing all the sides and hope that he can get the real picture and achieve an agreement at the end of the process,” said Uri Yakir, a leader of the parents’ group.

If mediation doesn’t result in an arrangement, the court will be forced to rule on the petition, thus allowing an immediate treatment solution for the children suffering from cancer, some of whom are now being treated at hospitals outside Jerusalem. If the court is persuaded that the situation in the Hadassah department puts the children at risk, it could be that it will override the Health Ministry’s decision not to allow Shaare Zedek to open its own department.

Although the parents are the petitioners, their demands are backed by the nine doctors who left the department. Attorney Orna Lin, who is representing the doctors, made that clear in Tuesday’s hearing when she sought to bolster the arguments being made by the parents’ attorney, Eliad Shraga, against mediation. Lin noted that the doctors themselves had suggested mediation to the Health Ministry several times, but were rebuffed.

Shraga was not optimistic about the process. “It’s too little and too late the petitioners have had their fill of mediation [attempts] in recent months; we have come to understand that even if the regulator accepts the decision, then the Hadassah director won’t accept the decision.”