Operations likely to be cancelled as German hospital doctors strike

Scheduled operations at around 460 German hospitals are likely to be cancelled on Thursday after the Marburger Bund called on doctors to go on strike.

An empty bed lies in the corridor of a hospital in Munich.
An empty bed lies in the corridor of a hospital in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

The strikes are taking place in around 460 hospitals across the entire country, with the exception of Berlin and Hamburg. 

“Scheduled operations will not be able to take place in most municipal hospitals today,” said Marburger Bund president Susanne Johna told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) on Thursday. “We are of course maintaining emergency services in these hospitals that are on strike.”

According to Johna, staffing in these hospitals is likely to be similar to weekend levels. 

The doctors are fighting for an improvement in their working conditions and hours, which they say have become worse throughout the pandemic. 

“The working conditions in hospitals are so bad in some places that many doctors leave the hospital and, for example, set up their own practice or go to work as employees in a medical care centre,” Johna told RND.

In the struggle to find an acceptable work-life balance, many doctors in Germany are opting for “80 percent” contracts that allow them to work fewer hours, the Marburger Bund president claimed. 

READ ALSO: German hospital workers poised to strike in wage dispute

“This means that colleagues are giving up a chunk of their salary in order to be guaranteed at least one day off per week,” she said.

The pandemic has exacerbated tough conditions for doctors, in particular on intensive care wards, emergency wards and infection wards. 

“In many intensive care units, patient care was recently only possible because doctors also took on nursing duties and worked even more overtime.”

The Marburger Bund is calling for approximately 55,000 doctors to receive a 5.5 percent pay rise over the course of a year, as well as strict upper limits on the number of times a doctors can be “on call” while not on duty. This should be capped at 12 per month, the association argues.

As a counter offer, employers have offered a pay rise of 3.3 percent in two stages. 

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The vocab you need for a trip to the dentist in Germany

Going to the dentist can be daunting at the best of times and being unsure of the language can make things ten times worse. We’ve put together a guide of the German words and phrases you need to help take some of the pain away.

The vocab you need for a trip to the dentist in Germany

When you arrive at the dentist, you’ll usually be asked if you’re gesetzlich or privat versichert (if you have state or private health insurance) and asked to present your health insurance card. However, for most procedures, you will still have to pay something extra on top. 

The most common reason for a trip to the dentist (Zahnarzt) is having eine Vorsorgeuntersuchung (check-up) or a cleaning appointment (eine Zahnreinigung or eine Prophylaxe) which most dentists recommend having twice a year.

Most health insurers won’t reimburse the full cost of teeth cleaning – so make sure you check beforehand with your Krankenkasse which costs are covered.

In a cleaning appointment, the dentist will remove plaque (der Zahnbelag) and check the health of your teeth (die Zähne) and gums (das Zahnfleisch). If they tell you that they see Karies (tooth decay) then you may be told to come back for another appointment to get a filling (eine Zahnfüllung or eine Plombe).

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

They will certainly remind you at the end of the appointment to use Zahnseide (dental floss) on a daily basis (täglich) and also recommend that you use Interdentalbürsten (interdental brushes) for cleaning in between the teeth.

In the chair

When you actually get into the hot seat, you will be usually asked to do certain things by your dentist or dental assistant (Zahntechniker) so they can do what they need to do.

The first thing you’ll usually be asked to do is ausspülen bitte – to rinse your mouth with mouthwash (die Mundspülung) usually in a plastic cup in a little sink next to the dental chair. They might ask you to keep the liquid in your mouth for a certain number of seconds until they tell you to ausspucken (spit it out).

A woman undergoes a dental examination. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Markus Scholz

When you’re lying down, you’ll inevitably be told Mund öffnen bitte or aufmachen bitte (open your mouth) and likewise, you might be asked to zumachen (close) your mouth at some point. Other typical instructions in the dentist’s chair are: Mundlocker lassen (relax your mouth), Kopf zu mir drehen (turn your head towards me) and Kinn nach oben (chin upwards).

Types of dental issues

There are numerous complaints that could compel you to pay a visit to the dentist, but one of the most common is having a filling (eine Zahnfüllung) or having a crown (eine Zahnkrone).Your health insurance will cover the cost of the most basic kind of material for filling up a cavity, but you will be presented with a price list (or if you aren’t – ask) for the different types of materials for crowns or fillings.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How dental care works in Germany

Another common complaint is having to have a tooth removed (eine Zahnextraction) – a particularly common procedure for a wisdom tooth (der Weisheitszahn). A more serious extraction procedure is a root canal treatment (eine Wuzelkanalbehandlung).

If you have this kind of procedure, you will normally be offered a local anaesthetic (örtliche Betäubung or Lokalanästhesie) and you may also need an X-Ray (ein Röntgen).

More useful phrases and vocabulary

Braces – (die) Zahnspangen

Sensitive teeth – empfindliche

ZähneTooth pain – (der) Zahnschmerz

Dentures – (die) ProtheseI have toothache when I chew/drink – Ich habe Zahnschmerzen beim kauen/trinken

I have light/strong pain on this tooth – Ich habe leichte/starke Schmerzen an diesem Zahn

My gums are inflamed – Ich habe eine Entzündung am Zahnfleisch

I am nervous about the treatment – Ich habe Angst vor der Behandlung