Thousands of general practitioners and specialists do not want to open their practices this Monday in protest against the federal government's health policy. The association of practice doctors, the Virchowbund, called for the campaign, and almost 20 other medical associations and statutory health insurance associations joined in. The Virchowbund expects that a five-digit number of medical practices across Germany will be closed.
The association's protest website talks about "painful austerity measures" that politicians and health insurance companies have been forcing practices to take for decades. The protest is intended to draw attention to the shortage of skilled workers, the bureaucracy that is getting out of hand from the doctors' point of view, inflation and the high energy costs from which practices are suffering, as well as the federal government's "austerity laws".
The practices could no longer care for patients the way they wanted, complained the federal chairman of the Virchowbund, Dirk Heinrich, on Monday in the ZDF “Morgenmagazin”. As a result of austerity measures and service cuts, appointments for patients are becoming “increasingly rare”. He referred to the cancellation of the so-called new patient regulation at the beginning of the year, which since 2019 had offered doctors special financial incentives to accept new patients and offer additional appointments at short notice. This step must be taken back, demanded Heinrich.
Immediately before the day of protest, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) questioned demands for more money. "Many practices close on Bridging Day; like the pharmacists, they also want more money. On average (median), after deducting all costs, they earn around 230,000 euros per year," the Social Democrat wrote on Sunday on the Internet platform X (formerly Twitter ). And he asked - obviously meant to be rhetorical: "Should the contribution rate for employees increase so that the fee continues to rise?"
The Virchowbund accuses Lauterbach of being interested in the hospitals but ignoring the needs of practicing doctors. The association also mentions other sums than Lauterbach and speaks of a practice surplus of 172,903 euros per year and a net income - after deducting retirement provisions, health and nursing care insurance as well as income tax - of 85,555 euros.
“The Federal Minister of Health accepts that practices are collapsing and outpatient care in Germany and Hesse is faltering more than ever,” said the chairmen of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KV) Hesse, Frank Dastych and Armin Beck, before the day of action.
According to the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, there should be a comprehensive emergency and on-call service. Anyone who cannot wait until the practice opens on Wednesday should use the patient service number at 116117 (without area code), it said in a post on the platform X (formerly Twitter). In North Rhine-Westphalia, the KV Nordrhein pointed out that other practices wanted to take over the care on site. “Every patient who has urgent needs today, emergencies, will of course be taken care of,” Virchowbund chairman Heinrich also assured ZDF.