German hospitals fear that the billions in aid promised by the federal government to compensate for the increased energy costs will not materialise.
The German Hospital Society (DKG) accuses the federal government of fundamental planning errors in the aid program: The hardship fund is designed in such a way that most cases are simply not taken into account, said DKG President Gerald Gass. "The promised six billion euros in aid for the clinics will become pure showcase billions."
The Federal Ministry of Health rejected the criticism: "The representation of the DKG is not correct," said a spokesman. According to the Hospital Financing Act, the federal government wants to make up to six billion euros available to hospitals for the period from October 2022 to April 2024. 1.5 billion of this should flow as lump sum payments, depending on the number of beds. The clinics see the catch in the payment of the remaining up to 4.5 billion, which are to be calculated individually for each house depending on the actual energy costs.
A main criticism of the hospitals is the choice of March 2022 as the comparison month. "Back then, the market had already reacted to the war, prices had already risen sharply compared to 2021," said Gass.
"The selection of March as the month for comparison systematically puts the hospitals at a disadvantage, since March is basically a very energy-intensive month and the majority of hospitals pay a monthly deduction based on actual consumption and not an annual average deduction," complains a spokeswoman for the Baden-Württemberg hospital association in Stuttgart . "So the March discount is always an inflated comparative value, no matter which year you look at."
According to the law, the hospitals should first determine the energy costs for the three months of October to December 2022 for the first tranche of the aid payments and compare them with the energy costs of March 2022.
The DKG assumes that more than 710 million euros could be paid out nationwide as part of this first tranche alone, provided that the 4.5 billion euros are distributed evenly over the term of the aid program up to the year 2024. In fact, according to data from the Federal Social Security Office, it was 36.7 million euros by February 27th. The DKG draws the conclusion that only five percent of the possible sum was paid out.
The second point of criticism is that, according to the law, only the costs of electricity, gas and district heating can be reimbursed, other fuels such as heating oil or wood pellets are not mentioned.
"The clinics have no chance of calling up the promised help," criticizes DKG President Gass. "But not because the cost increases would be lower than expected, but because the hardship fund is designed in such a way that most cases are simply not taken into account."
Apart from that, the DKG accuses the federal government of ignoring all other inflation-related cost increases. "Insolvencies are looming, even though Minister Lauterbach has explicitly promised that no clinic will be in danger because of increased energy prices and inflation," says the DKG President. The DKG demands a quick remedy.
The Federal Ministry of Health considers the criticism to be unjustified. On the one hand, the hospitals benefited from the general energy and electricity price brake, according to the department of Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). In addition, in contrast to other sectors, hospitals would be given preference because indirect energy costs would be offset at a flat rate. "Three tranches totaling EUR 1.5 billion will be transferred to the hospitals by the end of March," said a spokesman.
As far as the calculation method for the remaining 4.5 billion is concerned, which has been so sharply criticized by the hospitals, the ministry emphasizes: "Here too, the hospitals are better off than other sectors." The first tranche has already been paid out, with more to follow. "It is clear, however, that general cost increases will not be offset, but only additional energy and electricity costs caused by the Ukraine war," said a spokesman.