Ultra-Orthodox Call to Boycott Jerusalem Hospital Over Cancer Unit Doctors' Resignation

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Hadassah University Hospital staff during a workers' protest in 2014.
Hadassah University Hospital staff during a workers' protest in 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Posters slapped onto walls in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem on Friday urged residents to boycott Hadassah Medical Center a day after a labor court ruled that six doctors from a children’s oncology unit were free to resign.

“As if our children weren’t suffering enough, we have now received another blow ... in such times we should avoid going to this hospital,” read the posters, which asked why Health Minister Yaakov Litzman did not intervene.

Litzman is the chairman of the Ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, whose voters are a significant portion of Hadassah’s patients. The “action committee” that signed the posters is an unknown group.

In March, the pediatric hemato-oncology unit of Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem was thrown into confusion when its head, Prof. Michael Weintraub, and five senior colleagues submitted their resignations, effective in June.

Weintraub was accepted to work at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, in the capital, but Litzman has refused to open an equivalent ward there, leading parents of children being treated at Hadassah to launch a public lobbying campaign. It is thought that the posters may be tied to that effort.

On Friday, the Jerusalem District Labor Court ruled that the six doctors are free to leave and ordered Hadassah to pay court costs of 30,000 shekels ($8,400). The resignations will take effect June 4.

Hadassah had found a replacement for Weintraub, and had hoped the court would force at least four of the other physicians to remain.

Hadassah argued that the collective resignation was an illegal labor action and that it would harm patients, saying the doctors should be forced to stay on until replacements were found.

The doctors, backed by the Israel Medical Association, told the court that their resignations were individual decisions.

The court accepted the doctors’ arguments, saying they could not be forced to work against their beliefs and professional medical opinions, especially considering that they work in the complex field of pediatric cancer.

Hadassah has suffered a financial crisis in recent years and been in a rehabilitation process for the past three years.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman issued instructions to Hadassah University Hospital Director General Prof. Zeev Rotstein to provide a framework to solve the crisis.

The ministry set new policies on bone marrow transplants for children and hoped that after these changes the doctors would reconsider their decision to resign – which did not happen.

Hadassah said it regretted the labor court’s decision and is making the appropriate preparations.

The cancer unit will continue to operate after the resignations take effect, and the hospital called on the doctors to coordinate their departures with replacement doctors who will arrive in the next few weeks.

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