The Jerusalem Post
13,000 government hospital workers threaten strike
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.