NIn the opinion of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), German federalism is a decisive factor in the fight against the corona virus. “The fact that we got through the pandemic so well may also have something to do with our state building. So that the federal government tries to help on the one hand that there are the states, but that there are also decision-making options on site, “said Merkel on Tuesday in a video conference with representatives of health authorities, federal states and municipalities on the role of the public health service in the corona pandemic. Merkel thanked the health authorities for the “unbelievable extra effort” that they had made to track infection chains and contacts, as well as to order tests and to control the quarantine.
The local authorities had a “very important part in the fact that we have been able to keep the infection rate largely under control in Germany so far,” said Merkel. In regions with high rates of infection, however, some offices have reached their limits. There were also difficulties in the digital communication options. To counteract this, the federal government is now investing a lot of money in the health service. “The health authorities themselves know best where suitable starting points for changes are,” said Merkel.
Securing required for several years
The conference, in which Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) and Hamburg’s First Mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) praised the health authorities in well-rehearsed greetings, discussed the design of a “Pact for the Public Health Service” decided by the coalition committee in June. Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) spoke at the meeting of the “largest investments in the development and expansion of the public health service in the history of the Federal Republic”. In the next six years, the federal government will provide four billion euros. Like Merkel, Spahn was also satisfied that the federal government, states and the municipal umbrella organizations had come to an agreement and were pulling together in the corona pandemic. But he also pointed out that the federal government was “not originally responsible” for financing the health service.
According to Spahn, the money will be used to create around 5,000 permanent full-time positions by the end of 2022, 90 percent of them in the counties and cities, some in the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which is subordinate to the Ministry of Health. The health authorities, which employ 17,000 people so far, benefited most from the offensive, said Spahn. Depending on the size and requirements, each of the roughly 400 offices will receive ten to thirty new positions, including doctors, hygiene specialists and administrative staff.
The objection of the municipalities was justified that the new positions would have to be secured for more than four or five years. That is why it is so important to involve the federal states, said Spahn. We have learned from the corona pandemic. It is now “about the permanent strengthening of the public health service”. Another part of the money is to flow into digitization. Spahn pointed to cases in which health authorities in different federal states could not exchange their data due to different computer programs. The spread of the corona has shown how important speed is, this acceleration has to be stabilized.
Are the doctors missing in patient care?
The German Medical Association welcomed the decisions as an “unprecedented aid package for more staff and better digital equipment”. In the digital world, uniform and fast reporting chains between the local health authorities, the federal states and the federal government are necessary. For the new positions, the real work is to find suitable employees, said medical president Klaus Reinhardt. He advocated a separate collective agreement in the health service in order to attract “highly motivated doctors”.
However, recruiting is likely to cause further problems. Merkel said that she had learned in her constituency that “many are afraid that all doctors will now go to the public health service and will no longer be available for acute medical care. That will lead to a new discussion. ”Spahn also spoke of a“ show of strength ”to fill the positions, since the offices are in competition with other employers in medicine.
The chairman of the Federal Association of Public Health Doctors, Ute Teichert, who took part in the meeting, praised the planned higher pay in the health authorities: “The years of blockade by the municipal umbrella organizations, which consistently refused to make collective improvements, must now come to an end.” The President of the German Association of Cities, Leipzig’s Lord Mayor Burkhard Jung (SPD), demanded: “The health authorities need help quickly.”