Health professionals: compulsory vaccination is coming – the staff is leaving?

Status: 01/30/2022 05:16 a.m

From March, vaccination will be compulsory in nursing and medicine. Are homes and clinics then threatened with a wave of layoffs? The institutions see themselves at least well prepared.

By Markus Pfalzgraf and Tim Diekmann, SWR

A yellow post-it note reminds nurse Katja Sienel of her morning duty: Without the daily rapid antigen test, nobody is allowed to go to work at the Karl-Gerok-Stift in Vaihingen an der Enz – regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. The negative rapid test is intended to provide additional security to protect the residents of the nursing home from coronavirus infection. Sienel is vaccinated, although she was skeptical at first: “Actually, on the one hand, it was my residents with whom I am in daily contact and, on the other hand, it was simply because of society.”

If you wanted to live a normal life, the nurse said, you had no choice but to get vaccinated. But not all colleagues see it the way Sienel does. Not all are vaccinated. You try every day “to make your colleagues aware of the need.”

“The hospital must be a safe place”

The example of the Artemed hospital group in Freiburg shows what happens when healthcare workers refuse to be vaccinated against the corona virus: 35 unvaccinated nurses have not been allowed to enter their workplace in the clinics since January 1st and therefore no longer earn any money. The people in Freiburg did not want to wait for the institution-related compulsory vaccination decided by the federal government from mid-March and have already introduced it themselves.

Apparently for good reason: “The hospital must be a safe place,” Thorsten Vowinkel, the medical director of the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Freiburg, is convinced. Some patients had expressed concerns about coming to the hospital at the moment and wondered if they would be safe there. “And we can reply to them: ‘Yes, everyone here is vaccinated and we take care of each other here.'”

The in-house vaccination seems to work. At both locations in Freiburg, the vaccination rate is now 98 percent. By March, all employees must have been vaccinated or have recovered.

High vaccination rates at clinics

The situation is similar at the largest hospital in Baden-Württemberg. The Stuttgart Clinic says it has 7,000 employees, including 2,700 nurses and more than 1,000 doctors. Almost all of these are vaccinated, says CEO Jan Steffen Jürgensen. In the entire workforce, the rate of basic immunization is almost 95 percent. Most of them have been vaccinated and some have recovered. Only in “patient-distant” professions such as administration, warehousing or logistics is there still a clear need to catch up.

The few unvaccinated people are urgently asked to be vaccinated in good time – “appealing in the tone of responsibility,” said the head of the clinic. By mid-March, cases without proof would have to be reported to the health department as part of the vaccination requirement for health professionals. Only then would a ban on employment be issued immediately in the Stuttgart Clinic, and the unvaccinated would have to stay outside. Unlike the St. Josefs Hospital in Freiburg, no one at the Stuttgart Clinic has yet been released for this reason.

Based on discussions, CEO Jürgensen assumes that the situation will be similar in the other hospitals in the state capital. He also refers to France, where the feared mass layoffs did not materialize.

Problems with controls are not expected in the south-west, as they are emerging in the north-east of the republic: the health authorities in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are already warning that they would not be able to control compulsory vaccination in homes and hospitals.

“Sweet atmosphere” through fictitious job advertisements

The facilities in Baden-Württemberg see themselves as prepared – anyone who sees job advertisements in which apparently many unvaccinated nurses are looking for a new job could get a different impression. Newspapers like the “Heilbronner Voice” are confronted with an unusually large number of such advertisements. However, as it quickly turned out, there were often no real people behind them: many of the ads were fake, even after calls on the Telegram messenger service. That’s why they weren’t published.

“We check every single ad that comes in,” said Uwe Ralf Heer, editor-in-chief of the “Heilbronner Voice” newspaper SWR, “and where there are fake ads, they will of course not be published.” The review is a great effort, but abuse can be stopped. Readers would also get in touch and be dismayed, according to editor-in-chief Heer.

Official newspapers such as the “Stadtrundschau Ostfildern” near Stuttgart published an advertisement for an “unvaccinated nurse” who was “looking for a new job”. The newspaper’s distribution company had checked the ad, classified it as a “borderline case” and initially approved it. But in view of the discussion about a “centrally controlled campaign”, the management decided to “reject advertising orders with this content in the future”, as the managing director announced.

A journalist from RBB had randomly examined several such advertisements in a Lausitz advertising newspaper: no one could be reached on a single call. The head of the Stuttgart hospital, Jürgensen, describes such advertisements as “bold propaganda” if they are fictitious.

Unsafe situation in the homes

The employment situation in the homes could develop somewhat differently than in the clinics. Nursing facilities in the Stuttgart region are currently only reporting individual cases in which nursing staff have given notice because they have not been vaccinated.

A retirement home in Winnenden, the Haus im Schelmenholz, has 150 employees. About ten of them have not yet been vaccinated, said director Kristina Baumstark SWR. She is planning without these forces from March, and then things could get tight: “In the worst case, we could not be able to take in any more new residents.” Baumstark wants to try to convince some employees to get vaccinated after all.

In the nursing home in Vaihingen an der Enz, too, they fear that the facility-related compulsory vaccination will mean that the hard nursing job will become even harder because fewer nursing staff will have to do the same work.

However, nurse Sienel believes that the introduction of a general obligation to vaccinate could help: “A general obligation to vaccinate everyone would defuse the whole thing. It would be easier to work together, it would be easier to deal with and not so many colleagues would turn their backs on the profession, they would all stay .”

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