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Coronavirus: Protection of Employees

By employees at Vivantes and Charité who are active union members

We demand that the Senate and hospital management put the protection of employees and patients first.

Dear Mayor Michael Müller,

Dear Health Senator Dilek Kalayci,

Dear Sir or Madam,

We find ourselves in an entirely new situation, and we hospital staff are feeling the full impact of the corona pandemic as well. We are preparing ourselves for a situation whose outcome is unknown to everyone. This undermines many people’s sense of security. Many measures are already being taken to ensure that the repercussions are not as massive here as in other countries. Our health system is being put to the test – and so are we. Many decisions made within the healthcare system over the last 20 years have been at the expense of employees and patients. Our hospitals have become factories and health a commodity.

The consequences are manifold: Colleagues have fled from these conditions into part-time work, changed jobs, burnt out or became chronically ill. Outsourcing has forced colleagues into precarious employment. Politicians and management have ignored our demands to improve working conditions. There is a lack of recognition and appreciation. Strikes and protests have proven necessary to make people listen to us. But our problems have not actually been solved. And now the crisis has been added to all this.

It is crucial for us to keep together, show solidarity, and treat each other fairly. We have known for years what it is like to perform our work professionally under difficult conditions and we will not forget how these conditions came to be in place.

The developments that will occur over the next days, weeks, and months may reveal an unexpected dynamic. If we look at China, Iran, Italy, and Spain, we can only imagine what awaits the health care sector. It is all of our responsibility to learn from these events and to prepare ourselves as best we can. Politics and society require us to demonstrate solidarity and to extend ourselves beyond our limits – once again. And we will do so with full responsibility and the utmost professionalism. But we also have demands! We demand now what is necessary to overcome this crisis and we will demand what is necessary to ensure good patient care and better working conditions in the health system after the crisis.

The protection of employees and patients must come first! Therefore we are making the following demands:

  • Sufficient protective clothing and equipment. Berlin must find a way to produce masks, protective gowns, protective glasses, gloves, and disinfectants – IMMEDIATELY! Existing stocks are already predicted to run out. Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are paving the way: production facilities there are being converted to fulfill this need.

  • Increase in personnel for all areas involved in patient care through swift recruitment free of any bureaucracy (including nurses, doctors, laboratory, cleaning, patient transport, and medical technology staff, etc.)

  • Fixed allocation of cleaning staff to wards. Minimize areas that require cleaning which prohibits tidying. Extra personnel for outside areas, where thorough cleaning is required several times a day.

  • If you are ill, you do not go to work. Quarantine must also apply to hospital staff. In other countries, the virus has been shown to spread through hospitals and other institutions. This cannot happen here.

Demands to protect the health of staff in this crisis must be fulfilled immediately:

  • Rigorous testing of all employees according to the necessity which should be determined by self-assessment

  • Staff must be supplied with multivitamin juice and fresh fruit for each shift, as well as the means to order food.

  • Provision of free health care, rehabilitation and physiotherapy services to all staff.

  • Staff members belonging to risk groups, such as the chronically ill or older workers, must be protected and should not be involved in the direct care of infected or potentially infected patients. They have the right to be transferred to areas not at risk/far from such patients, while retaining their classification and without any disadvantage.

  • Hospital employees must be given the opportunity to park their vehicles free of charge on the hospital premises or in its direct vicinity

  • This year will see mass cancellation and postponement of holidays. The deadline to take remaining holidays must therefore be set at 31.12.21.

  • For the duration of the Corona crisis, hospital employees are to receive a bonus for imminent danger and stress for each service actually rendered.

  • Employees who are proven to be infected with the coronavirus through their work, who have a severe case of the disease and who suffer permanent damage as a result, must receive tax-exempt funds from the employer in addition to other social and insurance benefits. In the event of death, the surviving dependents must receive compensation.

  • Sufficient psychological support must be provided for affected employees, patients and relatives to reduce the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorders.

Charité has shown the benefits of involving workers’ councils in crisis teams both inhouse and across the board. We demand the same involvement for all workers' councils at Vivantes and subsidiaries of Charité. This crisis lays bare the fact that market logic has no place in the healthcare system. For this reason, we are also demanding the following:

  • Full refinancing of hospital services, including services in reserve. This includes additional medical technology, materials and additional personnel.

  • Abolition of the current financing system of per-case flat rates and replacement by financing that covers costs. This must apply immediately, not only for the crisis, but also in the future. This is the singular means hospitals may fulfill their mandate of providing good patient care.

  • Immediate return of the Wage Agreement for Public Service for all subsidiaries.

  • Better pay for all employees.

Overcoming this crisis means utilizing the expertise and knowledge of those who work on the wards and in the various areas of the hospitals. This also means engaging in a close exchange with the relevant politicians. We therefore recommend that employees, the health senator, and other political decision-makers be consulted (via video conference) as soon as possible to discuss the points in this letter (and others).

We await your response.

Sincerely, Giovanni Ammirabile (workers’ council chairperson, Vivantes) Conny Dewitz (cleaning staff, workers’ council) Manuela Dietzgen (nurse, workers’ council, Vivantes Spandau) Maren Frank (laboratory Berlin) Anke Galow (nurse, Vivantes Spandau) Thomas Gerlach (nurse, Charité) Silvia Habekost, (nurse anesthetist, Vivantes Friedrichshain) Ulla Hedemann (pediatrics nurse, Charité) Gabi Heise (intensive care, BR, Vivantes Neukölln) Marko Henke (intensive care, Charité) Juliane Hielscher (VSG Neukölln) Andreas Hörath (driver, VSG) Mareen Höwler (intensive care nurse, Charité) Sabine Jandke (physiotherapist, workers’ council, Vivantes Friedrichshain) Markus Könitzer (nurse anesthetist, Charité) Cornelia Koop (surgical nurse/ workers’ council, Charité) Sascha Kraft (CFM workers’ council) Charlotte Ariane Krumbholz (intensive care nurse, Charité) Mario Kunze (electrician, workers’ council, Vivantes Friedrichshain) Christine Lachner (intensive care nurse Vivantes Urban) Tom Lüdtke (intensive care nurse, medical student, Vivantes Urban) Dana Lützkendorf (intensive care nurse, Charité) Nicole Matzke (nurse, Charité) Angelika Nickelmann (medical-technical laboratory assistant, Charité) Torsten Paetzelt (workers’ council, Charité) Hilkka Reichert-Grütter (rehabilitation center, Vivantes) Charlotte Rutz-Sperling (former ergotherapist, Vivantes Wenckebach) Thomas v. Rüden (intensive care nurse, Charité) Steffen Stricker (workers’ council, Vivantes Neukölln) Almut Rieger (speech therapist, Vivantes Friedrichshain) Arnim Thomaß (nurse, Charité) Michel Tschuschke (nurse, Vivantes Auguste Viktoria) Daniel Turek (Charité facility management, workers‘ council) Anja Voigt (intensive care nurse, workers‘ council, Vivantes Neukölln) Ulrich Wallrich (clinic workers‘ council, Charité) Nicole Weber (laboratory Berlin) David Wetzel (oncology nurse, Charité) Paul Wilde (nurse KNK) Aytug Yavas (laboratory Berlin) Ole Zehrt (psychiatric nurse, workers‘ council, Vivantes Hellersdorf) Kati Ziemer (GPR, CFM workers‘ council)

The original version of this text (in German) appears on ver.di's Health and Social Services in Berlin-Brandenburg page. Translation by Emily Pollak

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