Mediation Fails to Resolve Pediatric Cancer Unit Crisis at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital

Sides must return to High Court of Justice Tuesday, with patients' parents demanding new pediatric oncology department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem

Hadassah University Hospital head Prof. Zeev Rotstein, left, with parents of children in the hospital's disputed pediatric oncology unit, May 2017.
Emil Salman

Efforts to solve the crisis in the pediatric oncology department at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, have failed, court-appointed mediator Elyakim Rubinstein said on Monday.

The case will now return to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday, for a hearing on the petition filed by parents of the children being treated for cancer at the Jerusalem hospital.

The parents are demanding that another Jerusalem hospital, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, be allowed to open a pediatric hemato-oncology department staffed by the six doctors who resigned from Hadassah’s unit in March.

The mediation effort has been underway since last Wednesday, led by recently retired Supreme Court Justice Rubinstein, but neither side has been willing to budge. 

In a tense hearing at the High Court last week (before the court sent the case for mediation), the parents and some of the pediatric patients themselves assailed Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov and Hadassah head Prof. Zeev Rotstein, cursing and threatening them. The two men had to leave under the protection of security guards.

One of the proposals made by the Health Ministry during the mediation process was for the doctors to go back to Hadassah, but a new pediatric oncology unit that would open at the hospital’s Mount Scopus campus rather than Ein Karem.

Under this proposal, the new unit would formally be part of Hadassah, but would operate as a kind of enclave in which the doctors would be employed and paid directly by the state rather than by Hadassah. Moreover, the unit’s director, Prof. Michael Weintraub, would report to the ministry directly rather than to Hadassah.

This proposal was rejected by both the doctors and parents. The Health Ministry and Hadassah rejected the parents’ proposal to open a new department at Shaare Zedek, even though the parents later offered a compromise in which some of the doctors who resigned from Hadassah would work at Shaare Zedek only as medical consultants on the treatment of their former patients.

The Health Ministry said it viewed such a move as a slippery slope, which would lead to the opening of a full department at Shaare Zedek, which the ministry refuses to allow.

The department was thrown into disarray in March when Weintraub and five senior colleagues submitted their resignations to protest Rotstein’s management policies. The resignations took effect on June 5, after a labor court backed the doctors’ right to resign.