Ha’aretz reports on the imminent closing of Jerusalem’s only downtown hospital, Bikur Holim:
…Bikur Holim opened on July 22, 1867 in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Its founders, Ashkenazi members of the old Yishuv, hoped to provide Jerusalem’s Jews with advanced medical treatment from a facility not affiliated with a church, unlike all the other hospitals there at that time. It moved to its current premises in 1925, when the ultra-Orthodox association that ran it through 2003 built the building on the corner of Strauss and Hanevi’im streets. Some 40 years later, it received permission from the government development authority to use another neighboring building that had previously housed the German hospital.
The association that founded the hospital and managed it for decades was closely associated with Agudat Yisrael; Menachem Porush, the leader of the Jerusalem branch of Agudat Yisrael, and his father, MK Meir Porush, headed the association. Bikur Holim, which was open to all Jerusalem residents, was nevertheless considered an ultra-Orthodox hospital. It was also considered a good hospital medically speaking, but a total failure in managerial terms. The association acquired hundreds of millions of shekels of debt, created ugly working relationships primarily because of its failure to pay salaries, and was even the subject of a police investigation in the last two years. The police recommendation to indict several of the association’s leaders has been sitting for some time on the attorney general’s desk.
The crisis that may now lead to the hospital’s closing erupted in September 2003, when it became apparent that for years, the association had not transferred money deducted from employees’ salaries to pension funds, and also refused to continue covering doctors’ malpractice insurance. The employees appealed to the Jerusalem District Court, asking it to dismantle the association. The court accepted their request and appointed an official receiver, operating out of the Justice Ministry.…