Professor Zeev Rothstein on Sunday was removed from his position as CEO of Hadassah and was replaced temporarily by Professor Yoram Weiss who will be the acting director-general of the hospital until an official search committee is appointed to seek a permanent replacement, Kan 11 News reported.
About two weeks ago, Professor Rothstein, 71—who served as the hospital’s CEO since February 2016, following his stint as the general director of the Sheba Medical Center-Tel Hashomer—was summoned to a pre-dismissal hearing by Hadassah’s board of directors.
Rothstein is facing accusations that he failed to rescue Hadassah from its financial crisis and that he conducted himself in a confrontational manner with the board of directors. His arch-nemesis has been Board Chairwoman Dalia Itzik, a Labor and Kadima former MK who gained a reputation as an “Iron lady.” She served as the acting President of Israel when Moshe Katzav had been removed for sex crimes.
Two weeks ago, the board summoned Prof. Rothstein to a hearing-before-firing regarding financial irregularities, unreported absences, unauthorized flights abroad, and concealment of information from the board of directors. Rothstein responded by getting the hospital’s department chiefs together and announcing that he was giving up his right to a hearing and was packing his belongings and leaving the hospital.
In mid-July, Ynet ran an attack piece against Rothstein, saying that in 2019 he spent 100 days in six different countries and that the hospital paid for about two-thirds of his related expenses, including one airline ticket that cost $7,000. Ynet cited “officials at the hospital” who claimed that the amount of travel was excessive, calling him “The flying CEO. He is constantly flying. And even when he is not flying, he is unavailable at Hadassah. Hadassah realized no benefits from all these trips. Maybe he should enlist in the Air Force, they’re looking for pilots there.”
During the year of the pandemic, Prof. Rothstein was one of the few honest voices in Israel’s medical community. In early June, Rothstein warned on national television that government and public hospitals are on the verge of economic collapse due to hundreds of millions in lost revenue. He expressed concern that he would not be able to pay the July salaries to employees, adding that Sheba Hospital—his old workplace—had a debt of more than $50 million.
The Hadassah board’s claim that the sacked CEO failed to rescue the hospital from its financial crisis is dubious when taken against the above background. All of Israel was listening when Prof. Rothstein told Kan 11 News on July 18: “I can’t pay my suppliers and some have stopped providing me with medicines and facilities. I borrowed the last oncology drugs from Tel Hashomer. To Shaare Zedek Hospital, which is in a very similar situation to mine, I lent other drugs that I could afford to. There are some drugs that I don’t have and I must look people in the eye and say: I am sorry, I do not have the treatment I should give you.”
In 2015, then-Health Minister Yaakov Litzman began pushing for Rothstein’s appointment as director of Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, which was in a financial crisis. The appointment process ran into difficulties due to Rothstein’s disciplinary action for encouraging physicians to work in private medicine instead of dedicating themselves to public medicine only. Rothstein was eventually found not guilty because it had not been proven that he deliberately violated hospital procedures. In February 2016, he began serving as CEO of Hadassah, replacing Prof. Tamar Peretz. In 2017, Rothstein ran into a serious crisis at Hadassah, when several doctors from the pediatric hemato-oncology department, including the director of the department, resigned as a result of a crisis of confidence in him.