Hadassah’s Condescending Message

Here in Israel, not a day goes by without disturbing new reports in the Israeli media concerning the operation of Hadassah Hospital. As an example, just this morning, in the print edition of Haaretz, in a news article titled, “Palestinian medical residents at Hadassah got no pay last month” we learn that where Hadassah employees have now received their full January pay (they had previously received half), “20 medical residents from the Palestinian Authority have not been paid at all and don’t know whether they’ll get paid now that the hospital was granted a stay of proceedings. “The residents claim “no one had told us anything … We’re afraid the January salary may just be erased.” The residents are not considered regular staff members and do not receive base salaries – only being paid for extra shifts in the ER or the wards. On average, they work seven to eight of these shifts a month and receive between $2000-3000.

This from the organization that has a solid and well-deserved reputation for treating all patients equally – regardless of religion or nationality. Disturbing.

But what is more disturbing is an interview in today’s paper with Audrey Shimron, executive director of the Israeli office of Hadassah WZOA. In the past week, Ms. Shimron has mounted a major PR offensive on radio and the print media in defense of Hadassah WZOA; the message: ‘Don’t blame Hadassah women for the hospital’s money ills’.

While there is no question that some combination of Israel’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance has culpability in Hadassah’s current state of affairs, this attitude by Hadassah that they are blameless simply does not fly. Shimron, and others, forget that Hadassah WZOA OWNS the hospital and “controls” the appointment of over 50% of the Israeli board of the hospital. Continually placing all blame on “the government and the medical center’s Israel board” is both morally wrong and a distortion of facts.

As one of a constant stream of examples that have come out in the media and in court proceedings, this referring to the severance package of the previous administrator of the hospital, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, Shimron told Haaretz, “I wasn’t involved with this agreement,” she said, “and I didn’t know about it. The agreement was signed vis-à-vis the board of directors at the time.”

Hello Ms. Shimron – Hadassah WZOA is the owneryou have the responsibility to have controls in place to be certain you do know. That management failure sits on your shoulders!

The Haaretz article also states, “The two developments that hurt Hadassah’s ability to fund the hospital were the global economic crisis that began in 2008 and reduced the interest the organization was getting on its investments, and falling prey to Bernard Madoff … ”

It is past time to put the Madoff excuse to rest. While Hadassah clearly had a paper loss as a result of their investments with Madoff, the organization recorded tens of millions [dollars] of profits, even following the legal settlement they entered into.

There is no question that serious issues need to be resolved to have the hospital back to their previous level of service and to insure the solution is more than just a band-aid. The government needs to step up to the plate and so does Hadassah WZOA. For the latter, this means not just financially but in accepting responsibility for past management failures. Feel good interviews may make Hadassah feel good, but do not move resolution forward.

Hadassah today is one of the most vilified organizations among a significant number of  Jerusalem residents – even more than the mobile and cable companies. Take it from one resident, that’s pretty serious.

Dan Brown, eJewish Philanthropy’s founder, is a resident of Jerusalem.