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Health Minister rejects limit to waiting period for appointments

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Health Minister rejects limit to waiting period for appointments
Photo: DPA
09:00 CET+01:00
German Health Minister Philipp Rösler on Monday rejected plans by conservatives to ensure doctor's appointments within three weeks for those with public health insurance, saying it would not address the real problem – a shortage of doctors.

"One can promise a lot, but it doesn't solve any problems," he told daily Die Welt. "A good treatment situation can't just be ensured with a law."

The member of junior government coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), said that long waiting periods have nothing to do with doctors being unwilling to treat patients.

“The fact is there are too few doctors who even have appointments to give,” he told the paper. “Therefore I maintain that we must make sure there are more doctors again.”

Last week Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats resolved to limit waiting periods for medical appointments to three weeks. According to the plan, public health insurers and doctors' associations would be responsible for making this happen.

In September 2010 a study by the German Medical Association (BÄK) and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV) called the country's doctor shortage an “urgent threat,” particularly in rural areas.

Older doctors are retiring with no one to replace them, the associations said. The average age of doctors in 2009 was 51.9 years.

Many doctors are going to work overseas, and the growing number of women doctors means that there are fewer full time medical practitioners, as women tend to work shorter hours for reasons such as having children. More than 60 percent of medical students in 2008 were female.

“The gaps in outpatient and GP medical care are getting ever larger,” the study said.

DAPD/ka

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