Because of the crisis in the Berlin fire brigade and the rescue service, politicians, fire brigades and trade unions are looking for solutions. But little seems possible in the short term.
The pressure is great: when there was a state of emergency for 16 hours on Saturday because there were hardly any or no ambulances available, the fire brigade was initially unable to take care of 40 emergency calls.
Instead of ambulances, fire engines drove off, for example to treat a 24-year-old with back pain. Personnel were withdrawn from the fire-fighting vehicles in order to be able to man the ambulance at all. “The worst weekend this year,” said the fire department. The situation was similar the weekend before.
A state of emergency has been declared by the emergency services almost every day this year: This was the case 166 times this year – almost as often as in the whole of 2021. usually there are less.
Ambulances then drive across the city, from Marzahn to Zehlendorf, because there is no vehicle available near the scene. Many ask themselves: how long can things go well before someone dies because the fire brigade had to turn out for trivial matters, but is too late in real emergencies?
“The constant state of emergency is much more than an alarm signal, an absolute absurdity,” said CDU faction leader Kai Wegner on Monday. The rescue service suffers from a systematic grievance. “We must not be indifferent to this, this is a matter of life and death.”
Wegner now sees Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) as having a duty: “You can’t treat yourself to a summer rest now. She has to do her job, save our rescuers.”
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A state of emergency had to be declared on Saturday morning because 106 employees were missing, and 27 ambulances remained unmanned, including ten from aid organizations such as the German Red Cross (DRK). 90 employees were absent from the night shift. 21 of 108 planned ambulances were not manned. In the end, thanks to fire truck personnel, 92 ambulances were deployed. Seven volunteer fire brigades had to help out.
Karsten Hintzmann from the DRK rescue service Berlin told the podcast “Berliner
That always ties up capacities that would be needed, for example, in the event of serious accidents. With only ten ambulances, the DRK plays a small role compared to the 130 ambulances of the fire department, but is also heavily utilized. The population should only use the emergency number 112 “if there is actually an acute emergency situation,” appealed Hintzmann.
And, like all other aid organizations and fire brigades, the DRK refers to this: Everyone suffers from a “partly chronic shortage of skilled workers”. Marco König from the Federal Association of Rescue Services told the podcast: “This condition has been apparent for years and unfortunately most of those responsible are looking the other way.”
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Like the German Fire Brigade Union (DFeuG) the day before, König called for a “round table” to find solutions. “We know from various lighthouse projects in Germany that many supposed emergency patients remain in their homes or that the statutory health insurance service could take over the care in the practices,” he said.
DFeuG country manager Lars Wieg points out: “The personnel that we need for the rescue service have a training period of three years. It’s not that easy to get.” In the short term, so-called advance vehicles could be used to find out from the patients whether they need an ambulance.
Ambulance services could also be used. In addition, the on-call service of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians would have to be better equipped to look after patients.
In the budget negotiations, the CDU faction in the House of Representatives had already demanded a number of things, but the Red-Green-Red party had rejected them. CDU parliamentary group leader Wegner listed on Monday: “At least twelve additional ambulances with 50 jobs, a medical motorcycle squadron, as has long been the case in Austria and also in Bavaria as a fast reaction group.” The Senate and the coalition apparently did not yet have the seriousness of the situation recognized.
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“Just asking for more and more vehicles and personnel does not bring a sustainable solution,” said Björn Jotzo, FDP interior expert in the House of Representatives. “The past shows that the number of cases – also taking into account population growth – is increasing disproportionately.”
From his point of view, it would make sense “a flexible response from the control center, which instead of an ambulance can also trigger a rapid deployment of the emergency medical service or an ambulance.”
A spokesman for the fire brigade said that it is now being examined how more staff can be mobilized at short notice. The aid organizations would now occupy more ambulances in the summer. In addition, it is checked whether calls to the emergency call center are classified too hastily as a case for the rescue service.