During the budget debate last Wednesday, Rauch had to comment on the urgent staffing situation in hospitals, care facilities and practices. There is definitely a need for action, but also “certain difficulties” between the federal government, the states and social security. In the upcoming financial equalization negotiations, however, one could hope for reforms in the healthcare system.
In any case, the budget for the health sector has shrunk: Because of the smaller expenditures to combat the pandemic, the minus is 37.9 percent. This should not remedy the shortage of staff.
Operation only possible with a lot of overtime
The alarm calls from employees in the industry are now piling up almost every day. The working conditions in nursing homes are hardly bearable, it was said last week in Carinthia, where the union sent an open letter to the state government. Those in need of care can no longer be admitted and beds in the homes can no longer be occupied because there is a lack of staff. The work pressure is high, plus the burden of seeing that aging with dignity is no longer possible, it said.
At a press conference, 24-hour carers complained that there was no longer enough money. One of those affected said that she has received the same salary since 2012.
The hospitals are also facing an enormous problem. The Tauernklinikum Zell am See in Salzburg is missing around ten doctors, there are fears about the upcoming ski season – more on that in salzburg.ORF.at. The roster was already adapted in the summer, and according to medical director Rudolph Pointner, there is almost constant conflict with the Working Hours Act. The operation is only possible with dozens of overtime hours and committed employees who are willing to do so.
Whole sector affected
Even if there is a lot going on here – from the care bonus and care reform to easing the Red-White-Red Card and changes in medical studies – “just from the pool of workers that we have in Austria or that we have in Europe”, the shortage will not to fix, so smoke on Monday. The staff shortage affects not only the hospitals, but the entire sector of social and health professions. The European states have recognized the problem and are now jointly considering recruiting the necessary workers in third countries.
When asked by ORF.at, Rauch’s ministry said that there had been an informal exchange last week during a meeting of health ministers in Liechtenstein. “A coordinated common European approach with corresponding social standards would be very important here and is therefore very welcome.”
No going it alone in the federal government
In some places the shortage is so great that people go their own way. In October, Lower Austria decided to bring 150 nurses from Vietnam next year – more on this at noe.ORF.at. These people should learn German in Vietnam and then complete the training as nursing assistants in Lower Austria. The project is controversial in the federal state and has been criticized as a rush job, but even in Lower Austria there will be a shortage of almost 10,000 nurses by 2030.
However, the federal government relies on actions in coordination with the EU partners. According to the Ministry of Health, one does not want to look abroad alone. In this way you can be sure that there are clear safety standards and that you don’t snatch the forces away from each other. However, the talks on this are only at the beginning, and a time horizon cannot be foreseen. For many of those affected, this should not be enough, the situation is already acute.