Dr. Ehud Kokia became the new director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem Nov. 1, succeeding Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, who stepped down after serving 11 years.
Kokia, 61, who earned his medical degree cum laude from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, has a 37-year career as a physician and health-care executive, most recently as CEO of Maccabi Healthcare Services. He assumes Hadassah’s mantle of leadership just as the organization prepares for the dedication of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower in October during Hadassah’s Centennial Convention in Jerusalem.
Widely published on topics ranging from endocrinology, fertility and health policy, Kokia is married and the father of two. He was interviewed here during a recent visit.
Jewish Week: Hadassah will soon be opening a new medical tower adjacent to the current building to handle all inpatient care?
Ehud Kokia: Yes, a $300 million, 19-story building and we will begin moving in our first patients on March 19; orthopedic and urology patients will be the first.
It will have the most advanced and sophisticated equipment. When it is completed in a year-and-a-half it will be the most advanced hospital in the country. This year we are opening the fifth, sixth and seventh floors, and in the beginning in 2013 we plan to open intensive care units. We will then move the cardio and medicine departments, and towards the end of 2013 everything will be occupied.
Will you be adding staff once the tower fully opens?
We will add staff — maybe one or two more nurses and some cleaning people — but not make major additions.
What are the plans for your current hospital building?
It was built in 1961 and we will renovate it and use it for daycare. In the meantime we have additional wings like a new mother-and-child building.
I understand the new tower will have a number of safety features the current building doesn’t have.
There will be five floors below ground, including an operating room in the event of war so that everything can operate without any problem.
Late last year a four-month doctors’ strike in Israel ended. What was the impact on Hadassah?
The negotiations ended with a new agreement, and now I hope we will have some years of peace regarding working issues.
Some say the strike ended with a band-aid and not the major surgery required. What is Hadassah doing to address the underlying causes — a public-private health system that doesn’t really work?
As director-general, I am very pleased because for years we have had the Sharap system, which enabled patients to receive private medical care [from our doctors] in our hospital with strict regulations. Hospitals in other parts of the country wanted to adopt it but the government said it could happen only in hospitals in Jerusalem — Hadassah Medical Center and Shaare Zedek Medical Center. So the residents in Hadassah really didn’t take an active part in the strike.
How did they view the doctors’ strike?
I think it is very important to address the issue of young physicians because it is not only a matter of money. I met with a few of the residents to understand the issues that bother them, and they wanted to have some confidence regarding the future — what will be five and 10 years from now.
We are an academic medical center – clinical, research and education — and for many of the residents in their third and fourth years the department arranges a fellowship abroad in North America or Europe. At least three have plans for the next few years — they know that on July 1 they have a research fellowship in New York or San Francisco and that when they come back to Hadassah we will accept them as a physician. This is good for them.
What about other demands?
They wanted fewer shifts and more money, and the government agreed to give them more money. But I believe that for the first time the Israeli Medical Association was looking beyond money — looking at doctors in the periphery of the country who get more money than those in the center of Israel.
The country is also prioritizing physicians according to what the state needs. So in addition to paying more to physicians in the periphery, doctors who work in the intensive care unit and anesthesiologists get a financial bonus.
These decisions were favored by hospitals and physicians in the periphery, but those in the center of the country did not like it because in the past all doctors got benefits and now only those in the periphery will benefit. But I believe if we treat our physicians in the proper way, they will not need extra money. Hadassah is a name people still go to, so we don’t have a problem finding residents.