Hadassah Medical Center to Vote on Bailout Deal

Highly public battle between Hadassah medical staff and the state to conclude Tuesday. But will doctors accept the agreement?

Tova Dvorin ,

Hadassah strike
Hadassah strike
Hezki Ezra

The long-running drama that is the Hadassah Hospital crisis is finally set to end Tuesday, according to Walla! News, after hospital staff vote on a proposed deal that would see hundreds of doctors lose their jobs. 

Proceedings are an all-day affair. At 8:30 am, Hadassah's doctors will meet to vote on the plan, in a hearing broadcasted live to administrative staff at Hadassah Mount Scopus and Hadassah Ein Kerem. Hadassah's creditors - suppliers, service providers, pensioners, and more - will vote from 11:00-11:30 am. Some nurses and other staff not represented by the Histadrut labor federation will vote from 6:00-6:30 pm. 

The Jerusalem District Court will hold a hearing on the results of the vote Wednesday, and is expected to approve implementation of the agreement. Hadassah trustees expressed "cautious optimism" regarding the successful rehabilitation of the struggling medical center through the program, despite its being categorically unpopular with the center's own medical staff.

According to the plan, the state will allocate a total of 1.3 billion shekel (about $380 million) to the hospital, through a series of one-time grants and through a seven-year payment plan; the state will also acquire some of Hadassah's assets. The agreement also specifies the arrangements to pay outstanding debts to specific creditors, including a 110 million shekel ($30 million) debt to the Tax Authority and National Insurance (Bituach Leumi). In addition, 25% of the hospital's debt will be cancelled. 

Staff are unhappy about the agreement, however, after learning that thirty doctors will leave and 275 nurses and hospital staff fired as result of the deal. Private medical care will also remain at the hospital and earn a 30% increase in wage shares - providing unwanted competition for public doctors. 

All doctors will suffer from a 4.5% wage cut over a three-year period if the deal is passed, giving the medical center 120 million shekels ($35 million) in total. The money is considered a loan and will be paid back slowly to the doctors in 2024. Nurses' salaries will be cut 2%, excluding those who make less than 6,000 shekel per month ($1740, significantly higher than minimum wage - ed.) for full-time work. The 2% will also be returned to nurses in 2024. 

As part of the State's obligations in the agreement, Hadassah has appointed an accountant to assist the CEO, as instructed by Health Minister Yael German.

The Director General of Hadassah, Dr. Avigdor Kaplan, threatened yesterday during a Knesset Finance Committee session that if the accountant is appointed to his office, he will resign.

"Once Hadassah assigns an account, which the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Health insisted in negotiations to resolve the crisis, I will consider resigning," he said. "Appointing an accountant is like castrating the position of CEO. I am not speaking for myself, but all in the name of these CEOs making it hard to function this way over the next seven years, according to the terms of the agreement." 

In February, a major strike at Hadassah Medical Center over poor working conditions drove several senior members of both Hadassah Ein Kerem and Hadassah Mount Scopus to quit, fed up over the hospital's inability to compensate for missing wages and frustrated over the tedious negotiations. 

The strike began a backlash against the Finance Ministry for allegedly stalling in negotiations to expand the hospital's budget.

The budget cuts have been hurting patients, according to staff who were reeling after a month on half-pay. As a result, the centers decided to close their doors, operating on the schedule normally reserved for Shabbat and holidays. 

The strike eventually ended with an interim agreement stipulating that the wages of Hadassah employees who earn less than fifteen thousand shekels a month ($4300) will not be cut. However, a permanent agreement has not yet been signed, frustrating workers and leading to concerns of another strike.