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Hospital in Sankt Augustin: Politicians criticise uncertainty over Asklepios children's hospital

Hospital in Sankt Augustin : Politicians criticise uncertainty over Asklepios children's hospital

The future of the Asklepios children’s hospital in Sankt Augustin is unclear. There is no documentation for financial aid from the state for the hospital. So far there is no formal application for funding to close the hospital. Now the SPD sees hopes dwindling and is calling for a fight.

The Asklepios Group has not yet made a formal application for funding from the hospital structural fund to close the children’s clinic in Sankt Augustin or parts of it. Documentation is also still missing for a guaranteed subsidy to maintain the hospital. This is the conclusion of a report by NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann for the health committee of the state parliament. The SPD, which had requested the report, criticizes the uncertainty over the hospital’s future and calls on the city and the region to fight for the preservation of the hospital.

The hospital operator Asklepios had repeatedly announced that it wanted to close the site for economic reasons. The deadline for subsidies from the hospital structural fund runs until 31 March 2020. So far, only one expression of interest of Asklepios has been received, according to data of the Health Ministry. A decision over a guaranteed subsidy for keeping the children’s hospital open is not possible according to Laumann, “since not all necessary auditable documents have yet been submitted in full by the hospital owners.”

Denis Waldästl, a member of the SPD district council and Sankt Augustiner town councillor, sees hopes dwindling: “In response to the question as to how the ministry sees medical care in the Rhein-Sieg district secured after a closure, the ministry answers evasively that the question can only be answered conclusively once the Asklepios children’s hospital has made its final decision.” The ministry also states that in terms of numbers or patients, their care by surrounding hospitals could also be absorbed at short notice. “It is crucial that provision is considered for the entire area,” cites the State report. Furthermore, “if the hospital should stop its care obligations at short notice, the closure of the Asklepios hospital could be dealt with by the surrounding hospitals according to the number of occupied beds.

All that does not sound too hopeful to the questioner from the SPD. The Health Ministry does not see obviously any need to answer the concrete question where in particular, children with rare diseases should be cared for in the future, and presumes that they could be treated in the university hospitals of Cologne, Bonn and Aachen.

According to Waldästl, “For the Health Ministry, the closure of the children’s hospital at the end of the day already seems to be a quite possible and justifiable option. Nothing has been said about the human impact. So little empathy for the affected children on the part of a health minister frightens me.”

As already reported, paediatricians from the Rhein-Sieg district on the right bank of the Rhine had sounded the alarm in the summer, because they saw hospital care endangered, especially in the winter months, and considered the route to the Bonn University Hospital on the Venusberg to be too far in view of the upcoming major construction work and the traffic congestion situation in the region.

Marc Knülle, leader of the SPD parliamentary group in the Sankt Augustine council, also finds the minister’s report sobering. “Although the Rhein-Sieg district is trying hard, it has not yet been able to come up with a solution,” said Knülle. The city of Sankt Augustin and the district must “show explicit borders at all levels and fight for our children’s hospital”. This optimal care – everything under one roof – must not be destroyed at the expense of the children. Both SPD politicians are in favour of guaranteed funds from the State.

(Original text; Bettina Köhl, translation John Chandler)