Doctors prescribe strike in wage fight
German hypochondriacs may have to cope alone soon, as 30 doctors' associations have voted to close their practices and go on strike some time before the end of September.
Around 75 percent of the doctors who voted were in favour of the strike, an alliance of doctors' associations announced on Thursday, increasing the pressure in an ongoing conflict with Germany's health insurers over fees.
Germany's 150,000 practice-based doctors and psychotherapist who work for statutory health insurers, represented by the KBV, has been locked in negotiations with the state insurers, the GKV, for weeks.
The KBV suspended all talks after the assessment committee decided to raise referrals by €270 million (0.9 percent increase) – the doctors want an increase of €3.5 billion (11 percent). The next round of negotiations is scheduled for Saturday.
Dirk Heinrich, spokesman for the doctors' alliance, said the high turnout for the vote showed the extent of dissatisfaction among Germany's doctors. "That is unique so far," he said. "The minimal increase of 0.9 percent, forced through by the insurers, was a declaration against the doctors," and "a devastating signal to the next generation of doctors."
He said the doctors needed the extra fees to cover increased costs of running practices, "not so that doctors can buy themselves a new car."
Klaus Reinhardt, chairman of the Hartmannbund, a doctors' professional association, added that it was now up to the insurers to "cut the knot."
GKV spokesman Florian Lanz countered that only one in four doctors had actually voted for the strike, and that the insurers had "no understanding for the announced practice closures." He added that after practice costs, doctors earned an average of €160,000 a year before tax.
"We call on the various doctors' associations not to carry out the debate on the backs' of patients," Lanz said.