€880m shot in the arm for debt-ridden hospitals
Germany's debt-ridden hospitals are to be given an €880 million bailout, the ruling coalition agreed on Friday, to help tackle a looming financial crisis in the German healthcare service.
The two-stage bailout announced on Friday will see €300 million this year and €580 million next year be pumped into German hospitals, of which half are said to be struggling to keep in the black. Further funds to be released before 2016 will bring the total bailout up to over €1 billion.
A portion of the money, to be sourced from state health insurers, which are currently relatively flush, will go towards improving hygiene standards in hospitals.
The association of German hospitals (DKG) estimates that half of Germany's 2000 hospitals are set to be in debt by the end of this year, faced with rising staff costs.
Recently negotiated higher wages for doctors and other hospital staff mean hospitals will have to find hundreds of millions in extra costs over the next year, said the association.
DKG head Georg Baum, who recently raised the alarm over a looming financial crisis in German hospitals, greeted the “urgently-needed” bailout, but said the money would not come quickly enough and called for next year's aid package to be brought forward.
Health insurers have criticised the move, along with the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), who said it was wrong to indiscriminately throw money at all hospitals.
“The [aid] program is a complete failure. It won't remove the burden on care workers,” Karl Lauterbach, SPD party spokesman for health issues told the regional Passauer Neue Presse on Saturday.
“It will reward the bad as well as the good hospitals,” he added. “And money will be given for unnecessary as well as necessary services.”