Please don’t do anything! This is an unusual request from a superior, but in Regensburg it was sent in August in a circular to all employees of the university hospital. Subject line: “COVID-19: Institutional vaccination requirements”. In the letter, the medical director of the clinic asks all affected employees “to wait for further developments and decisions and not to consider any measures to end their employment at the UKR”. In plain language: Please do not resign, even if you are not vaccinated – because sanctions are not to be feared at the moment.
Wait and see, everything isn’t so wild – that hits the mood quite well when it comes to facility-related compulsory vaccination in Bavaria. The Bundestag and Bundesrat decided on this in December 2021, and it has formally been in effect since March for employees in hospitals and nursing homes, for example. So far, the rule is only valid by law until the end of 2022, a possible continuation by the federal government is currently still open. Since then, health authorities have been able to impose fines in a multi-stage process or to ban employees from working and entering if they do not present proof of vaccination or recovery or no certificate of exemption. could. Because the partial vaccination requirement was never properly implemented in Bavaria.
As the Ministry of Health recently announced in response to a plenary request from Ruth Waldmann (SPD) and a press request from the SZ, neither entry bans nor fines were issued in the Free State. Waldmann has not received any information about the previous number of consultations that health authorities should actually have with unvaccinated workers.
But first things first: Anyone who works in the health professions must be vaccinated against Corona; At least that’s what federal law says. However, this obligation is not clearly defined. Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) speaks of a “pragmatic implementation with a sense of proportion”. “Security of supply is always our top priority.” The ministry had informed the health authorities that penalties and bans should “regularly” be avoided for existing staff. Only in the case of new employees does the federal law leave no room for manoeuvre. In other federal states there had sometimes been entry bans. In October, Holetschek appealed with some ministerial colleagues in a letter to Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) not to extend the vaccination requirement. The measure brought “more harm than good,” it said.
“A useless complication for the already battered care”
What is the point of a partial vaccination requirement that does not seem to have any consequences? Time for an interim balance. A survey by the SZ among numerous players in healthcare in Bavaria shows: Holetschek is no longer alone with his demands. The Bavarian Hospital Society, for example, had long advocated the rule when the facility-related one was still supposed to be an entry into a general obligation to vaccinate. But with the failure of the obligation for everyone – in April 2022 in the Bundestag – the mood changed, as a spokesman explains. It cannot be that the responsibility is shifted to a professional group and then branded. The Association of Private Providers of Social Services sees it similarly, the partial vaccination obligation is “today a useless complication for the already battered care”.
At the AWO state association with more than 1900 social institutions and services in Bavaria, however, there is a mixed picture among the individual providers: Some want an immediate end to the obligation, others advocate the period of validity until the end of the year, while others still call for an extension. One thing is clear: all institutions want clarity as soon as possible, so that they know who they can hire in the new year – and who not.
Institutions and associations unanimously point to a high vaccination rate in the healthcare system. According to Caritas, around 85 to 90 percent of the employees had been immunized – “and the vaccination rate is well above what can be observed in the general population”. The Bavarian Hospital Society gives a vaccination rate of 95 percent. However: The vaccination rates for employees in care facilities are statistically recorded by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). And that is what the Bavarian state report from October shows: Although 91 percent of the staff have been vaccinated twice, only 67 percent have been boosted at least once – the third vaccination is now officially considered complete protection.
There are no reliable figures on how many doctors, nurses or practice employees have given up their jobs because they did not want to be vaccinated. However, the wave of layoffs initially feared did not appear to have materialized. Wolfgang Ritter, Chairman of the Bavarian Association of General Practitioners, speaks of isolated layoffs, which have exacerbated the already very tense staffing situation in the practices; the obligation to vaccinate has brought bureaucratic effort.
Another question is how many new hires have not been hired. In fact, it is currently not possible to hire unvaccinated applicants, explains a spokesman for Caritas Bayern. However, the effects remained below the limit of measurability. “The problems for the shortage of skilled workers lie elsewhere.” However, many associations and institutions have observed that fewer trainees have been drawn into the profession recently, even though proof of vaccination is currently required even for a student internship. Even the Ministry of Health can neither provide figures nor estimate validly how many new jobs in the health and care sector failed because of compulsory vaccination.
SPD politician Waldmann, deputy chairwoman of the health committee in the state parliament, says: “We know that compulsory vaccination is unpopular in the facilities, but the state government has given in to a mood here instead of holding a position.” With a view to the sparse booster vaccinations in the area, to vulnerable groups in facilities or the burden on staff when many colleagues fall ill, all of this is “not completely irrelevant, as the Minister of Health suggests”. However, Waldmann does not expect the federal government to extend the rules; mainly because of the political majorities in Berlin.
Holetschek says that the expiry of the “meanwhile completely outdated measure” on December 31, 2022 should “no longer be shaken”. Should the federal government nevertheless extend the obligation, it would be legally impossible for Bavaria to deviate, as was the case recently with the obligation to isolate infected people. A spokesman for the ministry confirms: Bavaria has “already exhausted the mild enforcement of existing employees as far as possible” and should not, for example, regulate the proof of new hires alone.