Gov't Gets 8 Days to Revive Bikur Holim

The Knesset Finance Committee gave the health and finance ministries eight days to find a way to keep Bikur Holim hospital alive.

The Jerusalemite hospital has been in financial straits for years and is at risk of shutting down. It has a deficit of tens of millions of shekels. Its management said unless the hospital receives NIS 30 million immediately, it will be gone by next month.

Hospital head Yoram Blachar told the Knesset committee yesterday that he will quit in a week if no solution is found. Knesset members say they want to save the hospital. "The Health Ministry's position is that there has to be a hospital in central Jerusalem, and the Finance Ministry needs to come up with the needed funding very quickly," said Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

But Finance Ministry deputy budgets director Moshe Bar-Siman Tov said the ministry was considering shutting Bikur Holim and reopening it in a different formulation. One option would be shutting some wings and having others operated by other Jerusalem hospitals, namely Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah University Hospital: "Given past experience, it's not certain the treasury will to keep the hospital operating. The government's commitment is that patients and citizens receive the best service."

The hospital's legal counsel, Michal Rozenboum, said Bikur Holim was preparing a claim against businessman Arcadi Gaydamak in coordination with the Bailiff's Office and the Justice Ministry. Gaydamak bought the hospital for $32 million in 2007 and committed to keeping it operating for five years, but stopped giving the hospital money when his businesses collapsed and he moved abroad.

"Gaydamak received all the real estate and he committed to keeping the hospital operating," said Rozenboum. Gaydamak's attorneys recently informed the hospital that it would be suing for rent for the properties.