Hadassah Bailout Frays Amid Accusations of Mismanagement

Jerusalem medical center is struggling to recover financially without a permanent chairman or CEO, as administration, doctors, unions and government trade accusations..

Olivier Fitoussi

Months after an agreement was reached to rescue Jerusalem’s financially troubled Hadassah University Hospital, a new crisis has emerged that again is threatening the future of the world renowned hospital.

Over recent weeks a war has been waged on several fronts in and outside the courts – the hospital’s administration against the doctors and non-medical staff, and the hospital against the finance and health ministries.

Meanwhile, Hadassah has been ordered by the Health Ministry to stop performing transplants, while the resignation of senior surgeons Menahem Ben-Haim and Avi Nissan in connection with the transplants affair has added to the strains the hospital is already suffering.

In court, Hadassah’s administration is blaming the Israel Medical Association and the hospital’s previous CEO, Avigdor Kaplan, for the hospital’s financial problems, which have only aggravated relations with the doctors.

On Tuesday, David Spector, who represented Hadassah Women’s Organization on the board and had made enemies with doctors and hospital staff as well as government officials, said he was stepping down, although he said he would stay on as an adviser.

Under the terms of the Hadassah bailout accord, the government is supposed to give the hospital one-time aid of 190 million shekels (some $50 million) to cover severance costs for layoffs, and another 150 million shekels to liquidate various assets. The hospital is also supposed to get a 100 million-shekel loan, 150 million shekels more for improving infrastructure and 140 million shekels to cover medical malpractice settlements that might arise. Hadassah was also due to get another 430 million shekels from the state while the recovery program is underway, and a further 255 million shekels in cumulative annual aid.

Yet to date, the medical center has received only 217 million shekels of the total.

Scores of senior doctors held recently what those who attended described as a stormy meeting with stand-in Chairman Avi Balashnakov. Another tense meeting was held in the last few days between Marcie Natan, the president of Hadassah Women, and Amon Bruchian, the chairman of the Hadassah workers’ committee. Natan is trying to find a permanent chairman for the hospital’s board, as well as pushing forward the process of finding a permanent CEO for the institution.

On Tuesday, the workers’ committee representing administrative and other staff held an emergency meeting together with the doctors, in which it attacked the hospital’s new management team and called for it to resign. “It has failed decisively in its role and has not succeeded in bringing Hadassah to safer shores,” a statement at the end of the meeting said.

The unions’ central complaint is that the medical center is still on paper managed by an interim team headed by an acting chairman and acting CEO – Balashnikov and Tamar Peretz, respectively – but has, in fact, been managed by Spector, the Hadassah Woman’s representative, who has no official title other than being a director.

“The administration isn’t managing but is simply spending time in court confronting workers and doctors,” Prof. Dror Mevorach, director of the Department of Medicine B, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Who is really running Hadassah is a group of outside consultants that is acting to undermine the recovery plan or prevent it from being implemented.”

In response, Hadassah’s management defended itself. “The [recovery] plan has been put into effect with sensitivity and exactly as the agreement spells out,” it said in a statement. “Implementing all the terms of the agreement is the key to its success, despite whatever problems there are. It is unfortunate that the representatives of the doctors’ workers’ committee, who have maintained a running dialogue with the acting CEO, have chosen an aggressive strategy that creates an immediate threat to the agreement at Hadassah.”

Bruchian last week wrote workers a long letter in which he accused management of wasteful and problematic conduct, and unilaterally declared an end to the recovery plan and rescinded the agreement that had been made calling for layoffs. However, most of the employees who were due to be laid off have been already.