Three-day nursing strike planned at Charité and Vivantes

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Wed 18th Aug, 2021

In Berlin's Charité hospital and the Vivantes clinics, which are also owned by the state, the nursing staff will in all likelihood go on strike next Monday. This time, the walkout is not to be limited to a few hours; in recent weeks, the Verdi union had already called for short warning strikes. The union now wants to strike from Monday to Wednesday; twelve teams want to participate in the Vivantes hospitals, and seven in the Charité.

If these teams - there are usually one or two per ward - strike in the early shift on Tuesday as announced, one ward will have to be closed in almost every one of the nine Vivantes clinics. Also on each of the three Charité campuses remained at least one station would be affected.In the two hospital groups, which together hold almost 9,000 of Berlin's 20,000 hospital beds, doctors expect numerous operations to be postponed next week.

A Charité spokesman said already on Monday: "In the specific case, those affected will be informed by us as early as possible. Emergency care will be provided." The Vivantes board said they had not been able to agree with Verdi on one of the usual emergency service agreements. These regulate which patients must be cared for despite the walkout.

In May, Verdi had set a 100-day ultimatum: If the union and state hospitals did not agree on a "relief collective agreement" by Aug. 20, the nursing staff would go on strike. Now Verdi announced: "The ultimatum ends on Friday. If the Senate and employers have not moved decisively by then, a strike is imminent."The relief collective agreement requires an estimated ten percent more staff - or correspondingly fewer patients. If the case numbers remain as they are at present, the state hospitals would need at least 1000 additional nursing staff. The collective agreement announced by Verdi is to include a fixed, enforceable compensation for the burden.

The Vivantes board of directors around Johannes Danckert says that if the staffing ratio wanted by the union were in effect, up to 750 of nearly 5,000 Vivantes beds would have to be closed. But if fewer patients are cared for, the responsible health insurers pay less money, which is why up to 1300 of the hospital chain's nearly 18,000 jobs would have to be cut: "In total, Vivantes would thus permanently become a subsidy operation whose enormous deficits would have to be borne by the state of Berlin."

Vivantes would be willing to hire the required number of new staff: According to its own calculations, Verdi's desired pay scale would be met if Vivantes were to add 650 registered nurses. To fill these positions, however, there are too few skilled workers on the labor market. Vivantes said it has been trying to recruit staff for years: As recently as 2013, the company had 15,000 employees; now it has almost 18,000. Despite a shortage of skilled workers and an increasing number of patients in growing Berlin, the situation for nursing staff had even eased: Ten years ago, a nurse looked after an average of 6.6 occupied beds per shift; in 2019, it will be 5.4.

The shortage of skilled nursing staff, on the other hand, is a myth, say Verdi negotiators, when tens of thousands of registered nurses nationwide have left the job in recent years - precisely because staffing levels on the wards have been so low.In addition to the staff shortage, one of the negotiating issues is the cleaning, transport and kitchen staff at Vivantes subsidiaries. While Vivantes' main hospitals are paid according to the collective wage agreement of the public sector (TVÖD), employees in the subsidiaries receive significantly lower wages. They also want to strike starting Monday.The state hospitals are under great economic and political pressure. With Charité and Vivantes, Berlin wanted to succeed as a medical metropolis, then came the Corona crisis, in which the lucrative business with scheduled operations had to be almost stopped again and again.

Thanks to Corona subsidies from the German government and the Senate, Charité ended the first pandemic year with a milder result than expected within the industry. Europe's largest university hospital made a loss of 1.3 million euros on sales of around two billion euros in 2020. Vivantes is Germany's largest municipal hospital chain and posted a loss of 30.5 million euros on sales of 1.5 billion euros in 2020.

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