New leadership of the Austrian Medical Association presented its current positions on the most important topics in the health sector.
Vienna (OTS) – The new presidency of the Austrian Medical Association has been in office for exactly 26 days. At a press conference in Vienna, ÖÄK President Johannes Steinhart and the federal curia chairmen of employed and practicing physicians, ÖÄK Vice President Harald Mayer and ÖÄK Vice President Edgar Wutscher, respectively, outlined the current positions – from strategies in the fight against the impending shortage of physicians, to consistent action against current undesirable developments, to “health poverty”, which could soon become reality alongside “energy poverty”.
Steinhart, who can point to many years of expertise in the healthcare system and experience in chamber politics – among other things, he was chairman of the Federal Board of Physicians in Private Practice for ten years and has also been president of the Vienna Regional Medical Chamber since May 2022 – emphasized that an important focus of his term in office would be to place common ground above divisive issues in the medical profession: “The cracks that have recently appeared in the medical profession must be closed, and we physicians must appear strong and united in the face of the forks in the road and the necessary decisions on where Austrian healthcare is headed. Only cohesion makes us a reliable factor.”
Steinhart sees the greatest challenges for the next few years as improving the working conditions of hospital physicians, making the office-based health insurance sector more attractive, ensuring low-threshold health care close to home against the backdrop of a steadily growing and aging population, and significantly relieving the medical profession of bureaucratic tasks
“In the office-based sector, we need the start of a new era, including a completely new approach. Physicians, but also the insured, need a stable, efficient system that does justice to the outstanding services of the medical profession – not only during the pandemic,” the ÖÄK president demanded. “The care that physicians in private practice can provide in Austria is at Champions League level, but if the system and the framework conditions are only district league format, we will not be able to compete internationally. This already starts with the standardization of the services offered – in the 21st century, it cannot be that the side of the street or the province where I live decides the quality of my medical care.”
At the same time, Steinhart criticized the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK), which was newly created at great expense – it must finally start thinking on an Austria-wide basis: “From our side, a finished, standardized benefits catalog has been ready for almost two years. This must be implemented without delay.”
Good training as means against the physician shortage
Harald Mayer, federal Kurienobmann of the employed physicians, stressed:
“The training is enormously important for our young physicians. If they see that they do not receive top training in Austria compared to other countries, they are gone. And if they have to learn that training positions that have already been approved are not even filled by the hospital operators for lack of service positions, as is currently the case, that is the second turbo for a journey of no return. In Switzerland and Germany, but also in Scandinavia, they are welcomed with open arms. We have to take training seriously!” This also includes filling the position of a senior training physician at every department where training takes place, he said.
In order to counter the impending shortage of physicians and to make the medical profession more attractive in general, there are indeed strategies that have already been outlined repeatedly by the Federal Curia of Salaried Physicians and in the implementation of which the Medical Association has already signaled its full support: “These range from improving general working conditions in hospitals by filling vacant positions and performance-based remuneration that also stands up internationally, to managing patient flows to relieve the outpatient clinics by expanding the private practice sector. But also through one hundred percent compliance with the KA-AZG without hidden overtime and contemporary career and promotion opportunities as well as part-time models to better reconcile family, leisure and work,” Mayer summarized the most important factors.
Away from the five-minute medicine
For the established range demanded federal Kurienobmann Edgar Wutscher necessary investments – for instance into the discussion medicine:
Psychosomatische illnesses and complaints increase ever more. The time that doctors need to talk to patients, listen to them and advise them must be made possible and rewarded. But this time must also be remunerated. An up-to-date remuneration system would prevent ‘five-minute medicine’ and means optimal medical care. Furthermore, the overload of bureaucratic tasks robs us of a great deal of time that we could use for our patients. Significant relief is urgently needed here.”
It must be made possible for physicians in private practice to treat patients in a way that corresponds to their self-image as physicians. “We are now at a very decisive time in domestic health policy. The private practice sector is coming under increasing pressure. On the one hand, there are bureaucratic hurdles, caps and threatening savings, on the other hand, the gaps in the health care provided by panel doctors are getting bigger and bigger. Instead of bringing about the logical connection here that one causes the other, we have been presented with a whole quiver of disastrous proposals in recent months – from compulsory obligations to the abolition of the elective doctor sector,” Wutscher summarized.
Free medical profession and appreciation
In conclusion, the ÖÄK leadership unanimously emphasized that, in addition to structural changes, socio-political changes in dealing with physicians are also needed – above all, the commitment to the free medical profession: “This is a high good and has importance for society as a whole,” Steinhart emphasized. “Unfortunately, our freelance profession is threatened in many ways: by commercialization, corporateization, bureaucratization and governmental coercion. Our medical freedom of diagnosis and treatment must not be restricted by anything. We doctors must not be forced to act against our better knowledge and conscience.” At the same time, Steinhart, Mayer and Wutscher called for more social appreciation of the medical profession.
Austrian Medical Chamber
Mag. Thorsten Medwedeff
+43 1 514 06-3314
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