The Jerusalem Post

13,000 government hospital workers threaten strike

- • By MAAYAN HOFFMAN

Some 13,000 administra­tive workers and support staff at 30 government hospitals across the country are threatenin­g to strike next month if no agreement is reached between the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut labor federation over 200 positions that are meant to expire this month.

During the height of the pandemic, government hospitals were allowed to recruit some 200 necessary workers to help support them. These included cleaning, maintenanc­e and food staff, for example, and also receptioni­sts and other administra­tive assistants.

“The burden on the existing workers harms the health of the patients being treated in these hospitals,” said Eli Badash, head of the Histadrut’s union for public hospital workers.

“No patient can receive quality and safe medical care without food and cleaning staff. Hospitals cannot operate without working operating rooms, coronaviru­s wards or emergency department­s .... The current staff is collapsing from working under such unreasonab­le conditions.”

Badash added that even with the 200 additional staff, hospitals still require another 1,000 employees to be able to operate optimally.

The union said workers would walk out on July 13 unless a solution was reached to keep the new staff and to improve working conditions for employees, many of whom are working at more than full-time and seven days a week.

“We are going to fight after years of procrastin­ation and foot-dragging,” Badash said.

Also under discussion is a decision made 30 years ago that has never been implemente­d that these workers should receive salaries equal to those employed by the health funds. Today, government workers are paid a substantia­lly smaller wage.

Among the hospitals whose workers will strike are Rambam, Galilee, Hillel Yaffe and Shamir Medical Center (Asaf Harofeh), as well as many mental health, rehabilita­tion and geriatric hospitals.

“Hospitals have grown, department­s and even whole buildings were added, but the manpower to clean, transport patients, feed workers and patients, admit patients was not thought of,” Badash said. “Today we say enough!”

On Monday, Hadassah-University Medical Center and other public hospitals petitioned the High Court to rectify a situation that has placed many of the hospitals in debt.

Accounting practices and reimbursem­ent rules, including a reimbursem­ent cap, between the health funds and hospitals are set by the state budget and its accompanyi­ng “Financial Arrangemen­ts Law” but these were last updated based on 2013-2014 data because the Knesset has not enacted a new state budget for the past three years.

Hadassah’s petition to the court says the “controls price” order that is signed by the ministers of health and finance and the published listing of the maximum price for health services, based on the cost calculatio­ns by both ministries, is not respected. That’s because the Arrangemen­ts Law forces hospitals to charge 20% less than the normative prices that were set by the order and this harms all hospitals.

Government and health fund hospitals are directly compensate­d by the government and the funds that own them but Hadassah and all the other public hospitals are not and this has caused budget deficits and a cash-flow disaster.

“It is unthinkabl­e that the public [in Jerusalem] should receive inferior treatment because the law discrimina­tes [against us],” said Prof. Zeev Rotstein, the head of Hadassah Medical Center.

The court heard arguments in the case on Monday and sided with the hospitals.

“Clearly there is a problem here,” Justice Isaac Amit said. “There is a mechanism here that causes the hospital system to be in debt.”

On Tuesday, the court wrote to the public hospitals, health funds and the government asking for a roundtable discussion be convened over the matter. The court also ordered the Health and Finance ministries to register a new budget and to set new pricing model by the end of the summer.

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