Hadassah fight could come to a head Thursday

The row between Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America and the doctors’ union at the organization’s hospital in Jerusalem has taken yet another strange twist.

The Recap: The doctors’ union has been up in arms over the resignation of the hospital’s director, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, who they claim was pushed out by the Hadassah home office in New York. Hadassah leaders in New York have dug in their heels and insisted that Mor-Yosef resigned on his own. Mor-Yosef has never said whether he was pushed out, but after a long silence he is asking for a two-year extension on his contract, which expires in 2010. In additon, three Israeli members of the board of the hospital have resigned, according to The Jerusalem Post. 

The Latest: Mor-Yosef has been summoned to New York to meet with Hadassah’s president, Nancy Falchuk, on Thursda. And now the doctors’ union is demanding that Hadassah extend Mor-Yosef’s expiring contract by five years.

Here is the press release from the doctors’ union:

March 3, 2010  

Hadassah physicians call to extend Mor-Yosef’ term for five more years 

As Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef prepares to leave for a meeting tomorrow in New York with Nancy Falchuk, the president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, the Hadassah Doctors’ Committee announces its hope that the meeting will lead to a turning-point in the approach of the women’s organization and its president. The committee fervently hopes that this will yield the best possible solution for the future of Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO), which now stands at a critical juncture in its 98-year history. 

The Doctors’ Committee has no doubt that this solution must include, among other things, the continued tenure of Prof. Mor-Yosef as HMO director-general for another full five-year term (despite the fact that he had requested only two more years). His outstanding achievements in recent years and his uncompromising commitment to the hospital, its staff and its patients are the strongest possible testimony to the fact that he is the right person to continue to actualize the hospital’s ongoing momentum. 

I just got off the phone with Prof. Raphael Udassin, one of the two leaders of the doctors union, and I will have more on this later and in the Fundermentalist newsletter on Friday.

But the real issue at hand here seems to be that the doctors want two things. First, they want Mor Yosef to remain the leader of the hospital, even though he has made overtures in the past to seek other positions elsewhere. While it is unclear whether Mor Yosef actually wanted to resign in January or whether he was forced out, the doctors say now, after the union and others have created a movement around him, he definitely wants to stay for two years.

So why are the doctors pushing for five now?

Well. The doctors feel they know what is best for the hospital.

"We think that we have the knowledge on who should run it, and we want our opinion heard," Udassin said.

And the key here may be that last part. The doctors of Hadassah feel that they are partners in the operation of the hospital, especially after they agreed last year to take 4 percent pay cuts and to give back several vacation days for 2009 and 2010 to help the hospital make ends meet. And in this case it seems they feel disrespected because decisions about who runs the hospital — whether it is the HMO board, the HWZOA, its president Nancy Falchuk, or even Mor Yosef himself — are being made without their voice being heard.

"The position is that our opinion is not being heard because people are telling us that we are just employees," Udassin said. "We do not like that theory because without us, the doctors, there is no Hadassah. We make what Hadassah stands for. We think that we are the major bulk of what is done in Hadassah Hospital is done by us."

And the doctors have an advantage here that American doctors do not enjoy, full job security. According to Udassin, he cannot be fired.

"The difference between you and me is that no one can tell me to go away. Nobody can tell me go away," he said, claiming that he and the doctors of Hadassah have the hospital’s best interests at hand. "I am on a permanent position."

It is not clear what will happen when Mor Yosef meets with Falchuk tomorrow in New York, and there seems to be real suspense on both sides.

According to one Hadassah Women insider there are three options: "He gets fired effective immediately. He gets layered and stays till early 2012. Hadassah caves and he stays forever."

"This ends very badly, no matter what," the insider said.

NEXT STORY