How Germany plans to revamp emergency care to beat hospital overcrowding

The Local Germany
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How Germany plans to revamp emergency care to beat hospital overcrowding
Signs pointing to the emergency rooms in Munich. Photo: DPA

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn wants to overhaul medical care to take the pressure off hospitals and reduce emergency room waiting times. Here's how the proposals are shaping up.


In a bid to stop overcrowding in emergency rooms across the country, Spahn is submitting a draft bill that would see a complete reorganization of emergency medical care

According to Funke media group reports on Monday, the draft bill provides for all federal states to introduce emergency telephone control centres. In addition, special emergency centres are to be set up at hospitals where patients are sent either to inpatient or outpatient treatment depending on the severity of their illness.

Spahn had presented the main features of the reform last December but the proposals are now taking shape.

"At present, the emergency rooms of hospitals are too often overcrowded, because - among the patients - there are also those who could be better helped elsewhere," said the Minister. Often doctor practices in Germany are closed after-hours or on weekends.

As a result, waiting times are often too long for patients who urgently need help in the accident and emergency departments.

READ ALSO: Doctor practices should be open later and on weekends

The draft law provides for the emergency number 112 to be connected with the non-emergency out-of-hours doctor numbers 116 and 117.

Emergency control centre staff will then assess who should go to hospital and who can be helped by a doctor.

In addition, all hospitals nationwide should have "Integrated Emergency Centres" (Integrierte Notfallzentren or INZ) operated jointly by the clinics and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians.

After an initial assessment, patients would either be sent immediately to the emergency room or treated on an outpatient basis.

According to the bill, the emergency centres should be "accessible at all times" and "integrated into a hospital in such a way" that patients "perceive them as the first point of contact in an emergency".

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to fight its drastic shortage of care workers


Emergency room/accident and emergency - (die) Notaufnahme

Health Minister - (der) Gesundheitsminister

Draft bill - (der) Gesetzentwurf

Overcrowded - Überlaufen

Waiting times - (die) Wartezeiten

Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians - (die) Kassenärztliche Vereinigungen

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