New Hadassah Chief Devising Recovery Plan

Hospital sources don't deny rumors that the July payroll cannot be met due to growing deficit.

Hadassah University Hospital, embroiled in an acute cash crisis for the past year, has begun battling on several fronts to put together a complex recovery plan to ensure its own survival.

The hospital's current deficit has reached between NIS 300 million and NIS 400 million, which means its accumulated deficit now exceeds NIS 1.2 billion. Hospital sources don't deny persistent rumors that the July payroll cannot be met.

Nevertheless, sources said that Avigdor Kaplan, Hadassah's new director general, has won a remarkable degree of cooperation from doctors and staff at the hospital as well as great esteem at the health and finance ministries.

"People are convinced he knows what he's doing, and that Hadassah's entire rescue mission rests on his shoulders," said a senior hospital official, who asked not to be identified.

The hospital confirmed that Kaplan is in the process of submitting a recovery plan to the health and finance ministries, as well as to the Hadassah women's organization, to involve them in providing assistance toward stabilizing the medical center.

But sources provided more details, saying Kaplan is in the final stretch of negotiations with the doctors on an agreement in which they would put aside 4.5% of their pay for 27 months as a loan to Hadassah. The loan, which also apply to the salaries of doctors staffing the hospital's private care clinics (Sharap ), would be repaid in 10 years.

Kaplan isn't promising doctors that there won't be layoffs, but the agreement includes a provision stating that this would only happen if the government and the Hadassah women's organization, which owns the hospital, don't do their part to rehabilitate the medical center.

Negotiations are also taking place with nurses and the hospital's non-medical staff, all of whom are also being called upon to play a part in the recovery program.

The broom arrives

On assuming his post, Kaplan shook up the organization, firing several key members of staff in a number of departments including marketing, information technology and the spokesman's office.

Another front was opened against the insurance companies and HMOs' supplementary insurance policies. Kaplan told them he would no longer agree to receiving partial payment for surgical procedures but full payment "from the bottom shekel."

Hadassah officials are also concerned that the Economic Arrangements Bill, which in its current form freezes the way accounts are settled with HMOs as it was done last year, will deal Hadassah a fatal blow. The discounts the HMOs have been receiving from the hospital are so large that the income is insufficient to extricate the hospital from the crisis.

"The Economics Arrangements Law and policies at the health and finance ministries have discriminated against the medical centers for years in relation to the HMOs, requiring them to give [the HMOs] a large volume of discounts," Hadassah said. "Kaplan and his team are working to extricate Hadassah from this situation and demand from the state the same financial assistance it provides to the public hospitals."

In exchange for concessions being made by hospital staff, Kaplan is insisting that Hadassah receive more financial assistance from the government and the Hadassah women's organization. Unlike other general hospitals around the country, Hadassah - along with Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center - isn't state supported.

Moti Milrod