Health. German caregivers on strike for hospital

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German caregivers have started several warning strikes at the call of the service union VerDi. These very well-monitored movements illustrate the level of discontent of exhausted doctors, orderlies and nurses in a sector which suffers greatly from the lack of personnel. These claims are emerging at the same time as a fourth pandemic wave emerges which promises to be even more trying, especially in intensive care units. Some 30% of the beds could not be activated there, according to VerDi, due to insufficient caregivers.

These walkouts were launched in the face of the blocking of tariff negotiations by the public or private employers of hospitals, clinics and health centers. Across the country, from Bonn to Düsseldorf, Cologne or Aachen, from the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia to the large Bavarian cities or Schleswig-Holstein, staff have shown their determination, overwhelmingly following calls for clutch. In the negotiations, VerDi claims 5% salary increase, a minimum of 150 euros per month for the lowest salaries and many job creations. In Berlin, where childcare workers (Kita) joined the movement, parents organized a demonstration in solidarity with the strikers in Südstern, in the heart of the capital.

Extreme commodification

With its eye fixed on the lessons of the confrontation with the coronavirus, VerDi claims “a complete change of course for hospital policy”. The union sent an open letter to this effect to the three parties, Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Liberals (FDP), in the process of negotiating the content of the program of a future coalition government under the leadership of a chancellor. , Olaf Scholz. Sylvia Bühler, from the national management of VerDi, points to “the insistent demand to surpass themselves” addressed to employees in the face of the new explosion in Covid-19 cases, while the pandemic has already so ruthlessly put the spotlight on “what does not work in the field of health ”. And, in particular, the shortage of staff.

VerDi explicitly asks the new power in gestation to give up the “funding system” of establishments set up by the Merkel government leaving the grand coalition, as several associations also wish, including the very representative company of German hospitals. This system has led to an increasingly extensive commodification of the sector. This logic, underlines the union, must be replaced by financing modalities that truly meet the needs of hospitals and public health, “by including capacities for extraordinary events”.

The progression of the pandemic has taken, in recent days, very impressive dimensions across the Rhine with a record rate of contamination and nearly 200 deaths per day. “The coming wave will eclipse all the previous waves”, warns the Minister-President of the Land of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer (CDU).

Health counter-offensive

Faced with the growing concern of the population, SPD, Verts and FDP began to advance a health counter-offensive. Its details should be presented tomorrow, Friday 19 November, in front of the Bundestag, at the same time as the minister-presidents of the 16 Länder will meet on the same subject. Among the avenues considered: a massive return to teleworking, the introduction of a health pass for taking public transport or the obligation to vaccinate health personnel or retirement homes. An SPD official spoke of the prospect of “quasi-containment of the unvaccinated”.

The severity of the pandemic rebound is in fact attributed to a relative “under-vaccination”. Almost a third of Germans have still not been vaccinated because of the influence in public opinion of a rather large rejection movement which draws its inspiration from various conspiratorial speeches widely disseminated on the Internet. Very popular on the far right, they also resonate with the prejudices of certain environmentalists, even of highly publicized figures such as the left-wing activist Sahra Wagenknecht, who invokes “mistrust of Big Pharma”, but above all confirms her break with her ban. gone, Die Linke.

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