According to population growth forecasts, there will be more and more children and young people in Berlin in the future, but their medical care is getting worse and worse. Overcrowded children’s clinics, a shortage of doctors and a lack of specialist staff – clinic managers and medical associations have been drawing attention to this for several years, but they warn that it’s only going to get worse.
At a joint event of the Berlin Society for Paediatrics (BGKJ), the Professional Association of Paediatricians (BVKJ) and the Association of Leading Paediatricians in Germany (VLKKD), the associations once again drew attention to an impending undersupply in pediatric and adolescent medicine.
“In the last 30 years we have lost a quarter of our children’s and youth departments in the hospitals,” said Jochen Scheel, Managing Director of the Society of Children’s Hospitals (GKind) at the event on “Child and youth health in the growing city” on Wednesday evening in the Vivantes Clinic in Friedrichshain. According to the Federal Statistical Office, eight specialist departments for paediatrics and youth medicine in Berlin usually care for around 39,500 patients, which corresponds to around 4,940 patients per department.
Workload and lack of beds are already clearly noticeable, but now you are heading for “a catastrophe,” said Scheel. From 2023, instead of around 2,000 pediatric nurses nationwide, only around 600 to 700 people will leave nursing schools. Berlin trains significantly less than Hamburg. Scheel’s explicit appeal to politicians: “Make sure that there are enough well-trained children’s nurses available in the future.”
It looks similarly dramatic in outpatient care with paediatricians. In addition to the medical specialists, “without whom no pediatrician can run a practice,” said Reinhard Bartezky, state chairman of the BVKJ, there is also a glaring shortage of resident pediatricians. It is already difficult for many parents in Berlin to find a practice close to where they live. Almost 180 resident paediatricians take over the regular care in the metropolis, which is already not enough. This includes around 150 practice seats, which are, for example, special outpatient clinics and do not carry out everyday treatment tasks.
In addition, almost 30 percent of outpatient pediatricians are over 60 years old. “Many of them will soon no longer be working,” said Bartezky. It is a requirement of the various associations to increase the number of medical study places nationwide to 6,000. With around 325 study places per semester, Berlin’s universities train far too few medical professionals. “Before reunification, there were more places to study in West Berlin alone than there are currently in the entire city,” Bartezky summed up.
Irrespective of this, the paediatricians’ associations are calling for the Bundestag to pass the new licensing regulations quickly, which should help ensure that there are more general practitioners and paediatricians, as well as an expansion of further training in outpatient paediatrics and a move away from the case-based flat-rate system, which limits the time and staff-intensive pediatric medicine disadvantaged. “We practice preventive medicine. We prevent diseases before they occur. This saves the state enormous costs,” said Bartezky.
In the meantime, the children’s hospitals are already concerned about a new bed shortage in autumn, when cold infections usually increase. During the RSV wave last year, many young patients had to be transferred to clinics in Brandenburg. Not much has changed in terms of personnel issues since then. The promises made in the coalition agreement “for needs-based and adequate financing” in pediatric medicine, emergency care and obstetrics must therefore be implemented quickly, explained the representatives of the various pediatric associations.