At the center of the crisis at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, that will be the subject of a High Court of Justice hearing on Tuesday, are children with cancer and their families. They are the main victims in this case.
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The crisis began when Dr. Polina Stepensky, the director of the bone marrow transplant unit in the hospital’s pediatric hemato-oncology department, was made head of the adult bone marrow transplant department. The doctors in the pediatric hemato-oncology department believed management was going over their heads to make changes that would lead to the merging of the pediatric and adult bone marrow transplant departments, so that the hospital could accept more medical tourists.
The doctors argued that it would increase pressure in the department and undermine the children’s treatment. The crisis came to a head with the resignation of nine doctors in the department – six specialists and three residents – including department head Prof. Michael Weintraub.
The hospital claims there was no such plan to merge the units and that it was the egos of Weintraub and his staff that were the source of the crisis. Attempts at mediation, which included promises by the Health Ministry that the quality of patient care would not be compromised, went nowhere. The doctors who quit and the parents of the children insist that the only solution is to open a parallel or alternate transplant department at the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where the former Hadassah doctors could continue to treat the children.
The figures that Hadassah gave the Health Ministry refute the doctors’ claims. They show there has not been a significant increase in medical tourists in the department or in pediatric transplants in the adult department. There could be a plan to merge the units in the future, but for now at least the doctors’ suspicions are unfounded.
This does not, however, prevent criticism of the conduct of Hadassah’s management, and of its director, Prof. Zeev Rotstein, in particular. The resignation of nine doctors, headed by a renowned physician who has the confidence of his patients and their families, as their loyal support of him attests, is evidence of a management failure. But now, when the department’s work has been undermined and the children who were being treated there are forced to travel to other hospitals, it’s time to stop trading blame. It’s time to find a solution.
The petitioners, parents of children who were being treated by the doctors who resigned, are seeking the court’s support for their demand to open a department at Shaare Zedek and to dismiss Rotstein. With all the deep empathy one has for the parents, it’s not the court’s job to interfere in the work of the Health Ministry, which decided that Shaare Zedek doesn’t have the infrastructure or expertise to operate such a department, and that there is no need for two such departments in Jerusalem. It would behoove the court to force the two sides into mediation that would lead to bringing the doctors back to Hadassah while giving strong guarantees that their professional demands will be met, so that the treatment of children who need their doctors can resume.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.