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HEALTH

Doctors cash-in on patient referrals

Doctors are increasingly corrupt, a newspaper reported on Tuesday. A new study shows 1 in 4 German doctors receive cash or other incentives for referring their patients to certain clinics.

Doctors cash-in on patient referrals
Photo: DPA

According to the study by the University of Halle-Wittenberg, 24 percent of clinics admitted to cashing-in on so-called Fangprämien or premiums for referring their patients, reported Bild newspaper on Tuesday.

“Premiums are illegal!” Health expert and CDU politician Jens Spahn told Bild on Tuesday. “It’s not just about the well-being of the patient, but also about the doctors’ wallets. Every individual case is completely unacceptable.”

In the study seen by the paper, Professor Kai Bussmann surveyed over 1,100 private practice doctors, residential care and other health care professionals for the GVK Spitzenverband umbrella organisation of German health insurance companies.

Nearly half – 49 percent – of other health professionals such as medical supply stores, hearing aid specialists or makers of orthopaedic shoes admitted to illegally receiving money or favours for referring paying patients, reported the paper.

The paper reported that one fifth of doctors surveyed said they had not been aware of the rules against receiving financial or other benefits from referring patients.

40 percent had thought this was just an advisory guideline. The majority of doctors thought the risk of being caught was small and felt secure in the lacking controls and sanctions.

“These are mafia relationships that lead to massive damage for patients who are sent to receive treatment that isn’t ideal for them,” opposition politician Karl Lauterbach from the Social Democrats told Bild.

“The best doctor is not found for them – instead they are sent to where the most bribe money will be paid.”

Lauterbach called on the government to put a stop to corruption and bribes in the health care sector.

DAPD/jlb

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HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

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