Seven Israeli Hospitals Limit Services in Protest of Lack of Funding

'Understanding and sympathy' are not enough, hospitals say in a joint statement, decrying lack of funding despite an agreement with the government

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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The COVID-19 ward in Herzog hospital in Jerusalem, last month
The COVID-19 ward in Herzog hospital in Jerusalem, last monthCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Seven Israeli hospitals are working in a reduced capacity starting Wednesday, to protest what they say is a lack of government funding.

The so-called “public” hospitals, which are run by nonprofit organizations rather than the government or the country’s health maintenance organizations, announced that they will only perform life-saving procedures.

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They have also begun postponing non-urgent surgery. On Monday, in an effort to press the demand for more funding and personnel, they stopped receiving COVID-19 patients.

The affected hospitals are Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah University Hospital, in Jerusalem; Laniado Hospital in Netanya; Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak; and the French Hospital, the Holy Family Hospital, and the English Hospital in Nazareth.

“Understanding and sympathy for our problems doesn’t enable us to pay our suppliers,” the hospitals said in a joint statement. “We are demanding direct negotiations on a solution to the crisis.” In an apparent reference to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s departure Tuesday for talks in Washington with the Biden administration, the statement added: “The prime minster is taking off from here and leaving us to fight the coronavirus with magazines without bullets. We expect him to intervene in the crisis.”

At the beginning of the month, the directors of the seven hospitals warned the Finance Ministry that they were on the verge of collapse due to shortfalls in funding. They said they were having difficulty procuring essential medical supplies, couldn’t pay suppliers on time, and were forced to put a halt to a number of projects.

The hospitals had signed an agreement with the government that was to have provided them at least 630 million shekels ($196 million) in government funding during the first half of this year, including 300 million shekels for ongoing activity and 330 million related to the coronavirus pandemic. The agreement also called for them to receive a collective 55 million shekels per month in funding between July and December. In actuality, however, the government has only transferred a total of 300 million shekels to the hospitals so far this year, Haaretz has determined.

Unlike Israel’s government hospitals and those owned by the Clalit health maintenance organization, the seven “public” hospitals are owned by nonprofit organizations and have a different status when it comes to government funding. The directors of the seven hospitals have long fought to have their government funding brought in line with the country’s other hospitals.

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