Germans will wait even longer for GP appointments due to burdensome regulations, doctors’ association warns

A breast cancer mobile screening trailer in Limbach, Wiesbaden, Germany, Tuesday, July 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

Germans risk waiting even longer for an appointment with a general practitioner or specialist, the Virchowbund Doctors’ Association has warned.

President Dirk Heinrich, an ENT specialist from Hamburg, told the German press that “practices are now so stifled by a wide range of regulations, but especially by restrictions on billing, that they are forced to limit services because they can no longer finance them.”

Practices spend about 60 days a year on paperwork instead of dealing with people who are sick, the association revealed. Moreover, although each treatment is paid for by health insurance, the total amount is capped. This means that if practices treat more people, they do not get their full costs back.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is dismissive of this issue, saying he too has to save money. But the doctors’ association says practices are under pressure because costs are rising due to higher staff salaries and rising energy and material costs.

In addition, financial investors are increasingly buying up practices and then pruning them as chains for profit. Dirk Heinrich considers this development very worrying because these investors obviously take care of patients with a different focus and set different goals for themselves. The focus is often on the sale of individual health services. 

Medical practices and the federal health minister agree on this one issue at least. Lauterbach wants to limit the influence of investors and is planning to introduce legislation to this end.

Negotiations are also underway with the federal states to offer more places to study medicine in order to solve the problem for the next generation. However, specialists and GPs are convinced that the problem can only be solved by better conditions in medical practices, and to show their protest, thousands of doctors’ clinics did not open yesterday.

A few days ago, tens of thousands of doctors and nurses asked hospitals for additional financial support on a national day of protest. Many clinics are facing existential problems and many are threatened with closure. Representatives of hospitals, nursing homes, and trade unions warned of a steep rise in hospital deaths. “There is a huge shortfall in funding, which will lead to hospital closures,” said Gerald Gass, president of the German Hospital Association (DKG).

A few days later, the pharmacists went on strike. Pharmacist Ulrich Schlotmann told the press at the time that the government was putting people’s care even more at risk.

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