The German Child Protection Association has called for a “quick financial emergency program” for overburdened children’s clinics. “It’s a feeling of complete powerlessness. The lack of childcare is very dramatic. I’m really appalled that it was allowed to get that far,” said President Heinz Hilgers of the editorial network Germany. “The children’s hospitals must be able to provide beds both in the regular wards and in the intensive care units so that they are available in such emergency situations,” said Hilgers. “Only then can the problem be solved in the long term.” Because of the sometimes dramatic situation, clinics have already sounded the alarm. Many children are admitted with respiratory diseases and there is a lack of specialist staff.
In Hilger’s view, the current crisis is the result of “decades of neglect” by politicians. Due to a lack of skilled workers, it “cannot be managed in the short term”. According to Hilgers, there have been warnings about such an overload in clinics and medical practices for years. Unfortunately, no improvements were made “because of the exclusively business orientation of the system, which is designed for full utilization”.
The Green health expert Janosch Dahmen told the German Press Agency that the care situation for children in clinics and doctor’s offices was “alarming”. Measures are now needed to improve the care of children in the short term. The coordination of free hospital beds must be expanded. In children’s wards, specialists from other areas could take on simple tasks. Outpatient offers in emergency practices should be expanded.
Emergency physicians had already warned on Thursday that the massive wave of infections in children and the ongoing shortage of staff are pushing pediatric intensive care medicine in Germany to the limit. “Out of 110 children’s hospitals, 43 facilities did not have a single bed available in the normal ward,” said the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) in Berlin. There are only 83 free beds in the children’s intensive care units throughout Germany – “that’s 0.75 free beds per clinic, i.e. less than one per location”. The background to the warning is a current sharp increase in lung diseases in boys and girls.
“This is a catastrophic situation,” said DIVI Secretary General Florian Hoffmann at the DIVI Congress in Hamburg. The Munich intensive care doctor called for an immediate improvement in working conditions in the children’s clinics, the establishment of telemedical networks between the pediatric facilities and the establishment of specialized transport systems.
Lauterbach promises support
Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has already announced relief measures. Nursing staff are to be transferred from adult wards to children’s wards. The SPD politician called on the health insurance companies not to check staffing requirements for the time being and to suspend sanctions. He also appealed to parents and paediatricians to postpone check-ups that are not immediately necessary.
On Friday, the Bundestag passed a package of laws on hospitals that is intended to bring more money for children’s hospitals and relief for urgently needed nursing staff. There should be an additional 300 million euros each for children’s hospitals in 2023 and 2024.
kle/jj (dpa, epd, rtr)