In Neukölln, the dispute between the city councilor for health and her medical officer has escalated to such an extent that it could soon be continued in court, as the Tagesspiegel learned. Medical officer Nicolai Savaskan was relieved of his duties on Friday by City Councilor for Health Mirjam Blumenthal (SPD), and the doctor is not allowed to enter the health department he has been in charge of for the time being – an unusually violent process between managers.
Those involved did not comment on the situation. The deputy district mayor Jochen Biedermann (Greens) also said on request that they did not comment on “individual personnel matters”. Biedermann represents Mayor Martin Hikel (SPD), who is on parental leave.
Savaskan faces disciplinary proceedings. According to unconfirmed information, he is said to have regularly “out of tune” and disregarded instructions from the head of the house, i.e. the city councillor. In addition, the doctor is said to have not acted sufficiently “carefully” in some financial matters. The information can hardly be checked, the presumption of innocence applies.
Savaskan took office in January 2020 and Blumenthal was elected to her post in November 2021. As head of the health department, the doctor was responsible for around 160 employees, most recently he had called for additional staff for the Neukölln pandemic team and, from the point of view of the house management, is said to have justified this at best moderately well.
Savaskan often spoke to various media, criticizing the corona measures taken by politicians and even appeared publicly when he was forbidden to do so by the responsible city councilor. According to the district, Blumenthal informed the responsible senator a week ago: According to this, Ulrike Gote (Greens) knew about the feud between Blumenthal and Savaskan.
Releasing the doctor from official business and banning him from the house had been classified as permissible action by lawyers – the allegations were sufficiently “serious”, as a connoisseur said. The step was announced in an internal email dated July 29 to employees of the health department.
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Savaskan had also written down his uneasiness. On July 25, he drafted an “extended complaint” against Blumenthal. The letter was addressed to the complaints management of the district office. In it, the Tagesspiegel learned from Neukölln, Savaskan writes of a risky “extent of destruction”, of “bullying” by the city councilwoman and that Blumenthal organized “conspiratorial meetings with confidentiality agreements”. A “desolate personnel situation” with employees leaving is the result of the “discipline-sanctionist management style” of the SPD woman, which “disrupts the service to a considerable extent”. In this case, too, the presumption of innocence applies.
Savaskan often spoke as a member of the Association of Public Health Physicians. Not only the man from Neukölln, but also other medical officers had repeated arguments with politicians during the pandemic. Most of the criticism concerned certain corona measures at the state and federal level.
A few days ago, the Tagesspiegel learned about a round of Berlin state secretaries on the Corona autumn of 2022, which also discussed the role of public health officers. The Secretary of State for Education Aziz Bozkurt (SPD) suggested in the round with a view to the protective measures to be explained that attention should be paid to “uniform communication by the authorities”. In earlier corona waves, the “unauthorized communication” of individual medical officers was “not helpful”.
In Senate circles, there was also talk of the Reinickendorf medical officer Patrick Larscheid, who had criticized the school and daycare closures during the pandemic. At the beginning of the year, Larscheid resigned from the hygiene advisory board of the educational administration with the head of the professional association of paediatricians.
Every Berlin district has a medical officer. The physicians work independently, but are subject to supervision by the political leadership of the administration. Should Savaskan take legal action against his dismissal, an administrative court will decide.