Government-owned hospital chiefs warned labor union representatives of possible layoffs due to diminishing income caused by the coronavirus.
The deficit to hospitals is estimated to be in the billions of shekels, partly due to a loss of income as the coronavirus pandemic effectively canceled thousands of surgeries and other nonessential medical procedures that would have brought in steady revenue.
In a letter to union representatives, the chairman of the Government-owned Hospital Directors Forum, Dr. Michael Halberthal wrote: "Despite being at the forefront of the coronavirus crisis for the past six months, the government has yet to provide appropriate solutions to hospitals to enable their day-to-day operations."
According to Dr. Halberthal who is the CEO of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, "the government's conduct is endangering hospital's capabilities to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, and other challenges we face now and may face in the future."
Halberthal added that in recent weeks, several directors of government hospitals have appealed anywhere they could, in order to avoid the need to layoff much-needed personnel but to no avail. "Unless immediate steps are taken, we will have no choice but to reduce the number of staff of those on the front lines."
Dr. Zeev Feldman, the Chairman of the Israeli Medical Association, is trying to push for a labor dispute to get the government's attention.
"We have been warning for several months about the Finance Ministry ignoring the huge hospital deficits created since the start of the coronavirus pandemic," he said. "The combination of suspending nonessential operations, which is the only source of income for the hospitals, together with the enormous expenses of building intensive care units, protecting the patients, the medical staff and the hospital visitors, has led to deficits between NIS 85 million for the small hospitals, and up to NIS 350 million to larger medical centers."
The State Control Committee had convened on Monday to discuss, among other things, the poor state of the country's hospitals.
Committee chair MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) claimed that only 19 beds were added to the hospitals during the coronavirus crisis, and 154 throughout the year.
"The internal wards are full, we have no staff," said the director-general of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center Prof. Ofer Merin during the meeting.
"Yesterday we canceled surgeries and sent patients home because the intensive care unit is full," added Prof. Merin. "There is no money to pay workers' salaries, not because we are mismanaged, but because the government transfers budget only to its hospitals, independent hospitals cannot survive this way."
In an interview on Ynet, The CEO of the Wolfson Hospital, Dr. Anat Engel, said her facility is also struggling with grave budgetary problems.
" The coronavirus has created a large hole in the budget of all hospitals, it is our expectation that the government will compensate us so that we can continue to address any future needs," said Dr. Engel. "
In our case, the cost of treating the coronavirus has reached NIS 120 million, on top of the deficit of another NIS 120 million. These are huge sums, we must have assistance from the state," she added.
"I do not want to say that in the end, we may not be able to recruit additional staff, because we may end up not being able to pay salaries at all. "
First published: 15:33 , 08.03.20