Wehsely wants equal sharing of AKH costs

Viennese Social Democratic (SPÖ) Health Councillor Sonja Wehsely has a fifty-fifty divide of the General Hospital’s (AKH) expenditures.

Around two thirds of the costs of Europe’s largest clinic are currently covered by the city hall. The Republic of Austria comes up for the remaining part of the hospital’s budget. Wehsely said the state must compensate 50 per cent of the AKH’s expenses to ensure a successful restructure procedure.

Medical experts have appealed on politicians to clarify competencies and reform the clinic’s strategy to raise efficiency, lower costs and ensure services to patients. Under the current system, the capital city educates and pays nurses, carers and technicians while the Medical University of Vienna (MedUni) trains and pays the AKH’s doctors. The MedUni is part of the University of Vienna – which is one of 21 higher education institutions which receive subsidies from the state.

Wehsely told the Kurier today (Thurs) she was awaiting Science Minister Karlheinz Töchterle’s reply to her concept proposal for the 2,100 bed clinic. Töchterle – an independent member of the team of government ministers of the People’s Party (ÖVP) – recently managed to avoid strikes by AKH’s medical staff by promising to increase the MedUni’s budget. Töchterle stressed that future budgets could be frozen to compensate the capital injection which was granted after MedUni chiefs said they needed an extra nine million Euros in the short term to ensure a services at full capacity.

Around 1,800 doctors are currently employed at the AKH. MedUni bosses forced Töchterle to act by presenting plans to reduce the number of night and weekend duty doctors from 172 to 145. They said there would be no alternative to this measure if the federal government coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP kept saying no to more financial support. MedUni doctors also appealed on the state and the city to rethink their policies entirely in favour of investing more on the AKH instead of building a new clinic in Vienna-Floridsdorf.

Wehsely stressed today that she would continue carrying out the city’s health reform. The councillor announced last year that several Viennese clinics would merge. She admitted that the current situation was difficult because of the pressure to reduce costs.

The city of Vienna was asked by the federal government last month to spend one billion Euros less in the coming five years to help restoring the country’s budget. The Viennese government accepted the decision but experts doubt that it would remain on the proposed austerity track. They criticise that agreement between the provinces and the state was not based on a constitutional law but a declaration of intent. This means that provincial governments which failed to meet the envisaged fiscal goals must not fear any kind of consequences such as penalties or a reduction of the state’s subsidies.

Wehsely – who is hotly tipped to succeed the SPÖ’s Alois Stöger as health minister after next year’s national election – told the Kurier that her department’s goal was to carry out sensible restructure measures and reduce investments wherever it is possible to avoid a privatisation of clinics.