Do hospital workers have a union

Health: Union: Hospitals dangerously understaffed at night

A hospital patient wakes up at night with severe pain. He presses the emergency button to call a nurse. But nothing happens. There is only one nurse on the ward and he is busy at the moment. Research by Verdi shows that this is not an unrealistic idea. The union was in 237 hospitals across Germany on the night from Thursday to Friday, assessed the situation and spoke to over 2,800 employees for their night duty check. Verdi received alarming information, says board member Sylvia Bühler.

Many nurses are alone on the ward

A specialist worked alone on over half of the stations. She had to care for an average of 25 patients. Bühler says: “In a ward with 30 patients, you normally need two specialists.” In two cases, two nurses each had to look after 68 patients. There were no specialists at all on five stations, only one assistant at a time. Bühler criticizes that the hospitals are sometimes dangerously understaffed at night. In total there was a shortage of 70,000 employees in the care sector.

Patients have to endure understaffing

This has consequences for the patient. More than half of the hospital staff surveyed said that sometimes they could not adequately care for the sick because of the thin staffing levels. This would prevent them from properly monitoring confused people. The dispensing of medication also takes too long, so that patients often have to endure unnecessary pain. Other patients, on the other hand, lay in their excrement for hours because the staff lacked the time to wash. Over a quarter of the hospital employees surveyed also admitted that they neglect to disinfect their hands because of the high work pressure. Bühler sums up: “The well-being of the patient is increasingly at risk.” Project manager Niko Stumpfegger adds that there are no significant differences between public, church and private hospitals.

On-call duty becomes full work for the doctors

The situation is similar for doctors, adds Hans-Jörg Freese from the Marburger Bund doctors' union. They are usually on call at night. Actually, they should only be used in emergencies and should rest for one to two hours in between. However, Freese says: "Due to the tight staffing, the readiness is like a normal duty and has now mutated into full work." He complains that much that was left behind during the day is now shifted into the night. This would push the doctors to their limit.

Personnel bottlenecks endanger the well-being of the patient

The German Hospital Association (DKG) admits that the situation in the hospitals is often difficult and that there are staff shortages. However, the situation is not as dramatic as Verdi described. The DKG is currently assuming 5,000 vacancies in nursing. The medical care of the patients still takes place at the highest level, so DKG managing director Georg Baum. He says: “The safety of patients and compliance with the existing regulations is a top priority for the hospitals.” Baum describes the Verdi night duty check as a “dubious night and fog action”. The questionnaires were formulated suggestively.