An iconic hospital

An iconic hospital

Reports last week that Hadassah Medical Center (HMC) is on the brink of financial collapse have come as disturbing news to the Jewish world.

The Forward reported on Dec. 3 that HMC faces a $300 million deficit, $80 million of which accrued in the past year alone.

HMC is an iconic hospital in Israel — a place of groundbreaking research and lifesaving techniques, not to mention its colorblind practice of treating whomever comes through its doors — a practice that earned it a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2005. That’s a noteworthy achievement given the neighborhood in which Israel lives.

The hospital also houses the famed Chagall windows.

HMC’s parent entity — Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America — marked its centennial last year by dedicating a state-of-the art tower, paid for by an American campaign.

How could such a hospital fail?

It won’t, national Hadassah leaders have assured the Chronicle. They frankly admit, though, that the financial status of the hospital is poor and its director, Avigdor Kaplan, who has been on the job less than a year, has a  cleanup job on his hands.

The resignations of four HMC board members — all Israelis, including the chair, Esther Dominissini — to protest their exclusion from the negotiations over the future of government funding for the medical center have muddied the situation. Hadassah officials have said those reports have been misrepresented in the media and there is no schism between American and Israeli directors.      

Kaplan is currently working with the hospital’s stakeholders, not the least of which is the Israeli government, to develop a plan for recovery. But it won’t happen right away.

“I have been given no reason to believe he [Kaplan] can’t accomplish this,” Hadassah National Board Member Judith Palkovitz of Pittsburgh, told us. “I have also been given no reason to believe this will happen tomorrow. These things take time.”

Hadassah National President Marcie Natan, has also expressed her optimism in previous interviews with other publications.

“I am more than optimistic that by the beginning of 2014 we will have worked out a move forward for the hospital that will put it on a track for a full turnaround and financial recovery,” Natan said in a Nov. 18 interview, as reported by the Israel daily Haaretz. She did note, though, that increasing the cash flow support for the hospital would be “a challenge” for her organization.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Hadassah’s financial problems in recent years, specifically, the fact that it was one of the higher profile victims of Bernard Madoff’s ponzi scheme, are well known.

Nevertheless, to modify a line commonly used during the Great Recession of 2008, HMC really is too big to fail. That’s why we believe Hadassah and Israeli officials won’t let it. The Jewish state and the Jewish people have too much invested in this hospital in terms of money, expertise and pride. In fact, it’s a source of Jewish pride everywhere. It would take more than financial reverses or bad management to bring down a monument like that.