Concerns about staff shortages challenge Germany’s vaccine obligations

Berlin — Frank Vogel, a 64-year-old local politician from the Erzgebirge region of eastern Germany, has been looking for ways to keep nursing homes open when vaccination obligations for health care workers come into force next month.

His area near the Czech border is one of the lowest immunization rates in Germany. Only 57% of the health care workers there were attacked twice against the coronavirus, resulting in a shortage of staff and closure of the facility when mandating.

“In the end, you have a question: so how do you deal with the people being cared for at these facilities?” Vogel told Reuters.

Mandating medical staff vaccination by March 15 is the first step in the new government’s plan to mandate injections for all adults.

However, there are growing concerns that thousands of people will lose their jobs, hospitals and elderly housing will be understaffed, and the health care system will be overwhelmed two years after the pandemic.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the relaxation of the COVID-19 restriction as the recent surge from the more infectious Omicron mutant appeared to have peaked.

However, he said general vaccine obligations are still needed to deal with possible new variants and worsening situations in the fall and winter.

The debate in Germany highlights the difficulty of mandating vaccination in the national federal system and could undermine efforts to extend the rules to all adults.

Staff shortage

Germany’s vaccination rate is lower than in many other Western European countries, with about 75% being fully vaccinated. According to a survey by the Robert Koch Institute, about 92% of hospital workers have been attacked twice by the virus.

People gather in Dusseldorf, Germany, on February 19, 2022, during a protest against the obligation of healthcare workers to be vaccinated with COVID-19. (MaxBrugger / Reuters)

Christine Vogler, head of the German Nursing Council (DPR), said that two years after the pandemic, a sector already suffering from a staff shortage was tasked and currently more than 200,000 nurses are not filled. rice field.

“I can choose between unvaccinated caregivers and those who don’t care at all. This is a bad solution,” she said.

Vogel and other district councilors in eastern Saxony, Germany’s lowest vaccination rate and nearly 30% of medical staff not vaccinated, are federal and state to abolish parliamentary missions in December. I requested the health authorities of.

But after last week’s state health ministers’ meeting, it seems likely to move on. All 16 states have agreed to implement the law as long as they are allowed to find ways to avoid staff shortages.

For example, a health ministry spokesman said the facility could utilize former nursing staff and people without nursing training to provide support in the non-medical field.

Still, Eike Hennig, head of clinics in cities in eastern Magdeburg, is skeptical that about 900 healthcare workers, or 10% of all staff, will implement the rules in cities that have not yet been vaccinated. Said there is.

He suggested that the next few weeks could be used to convince workers to get the newly approved Novavax vaccine. The more traditional technique of that vaccine could beat some skeptics.

“Feeling betrayed”

However, the looming mission, especially stressful working conditions during a pandemic, and low wages, seems to have already encouraged some to quit their jobs.

Approximately 23,000 healthcare workers have registered as job seekers in the last two months, up 60% year-on-year, according to federal labor agency data.

“Currently, I am registering the resignation of a nursing staff member.” From March 15th, I will not be involved in this situation and will be unemployed. ” That can never be a goal, “Henning said.

Stephanie Bresnik, a 36-year-old nurse living in the western city of Düsseldorf, said almost half of her colleagues were not vaccinated like her.

She said neither Mandate nor the Novavax vaccine would convince her to fire. On Saturday, she and her other colleagues organized a protest against the city’s mission.

“We … feel betrayed. So we were enough to be exposed to this risk for the last two years, and now we are vaccinated and just above our body. Should I give up on this self-determination? Number! “Bresnik said.

Some health workers tried to challenge the mission, but earlier this month the German Supreme Court rejected the urgent petition.

“In my opinion, the solution at this point is to break the mandate and see how the COVID pandemic progresses,” Vogel said.

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