University hospital strike ends 1000 patients on the waiting list in Bonn

Bonn · After eleven weeks, the strike for a collective agreement at the six university hospitals in NRW has ended. Strikers at Bonn University Hospital (UKB) celebrated their success on Tuesday afternoon, returning to the wards and operating theatres on Wednesday. The UKB now wants to return to normal operations as quickly as possible.

  Many postponed operations are pending in Bonn. (Symbol photo)

Many postponed operations are pending in Bonn. (Symbol photo)

Foto: dpa/Sven Hoppe

After eleven weeks, the strike for a collective agreement at the six university hospitals in NRW has ended. Strikers at Bonn University Hospital (UKB) celebrated their success on Tuesday afternoon, returning to the wards and operating theatres on Wednesday. "We have to hand in our posters and flags at the Haus der Geschichte", said a colleague. The result achieved could have a signal effect beyond NRW and into the entire hospital sector. The UKB now wants to return to normal operations as quickly as possible.

According to Professor Wolfgang Holzgreve, medical director and chair of the board of the UKB, there are more than 1000 patients on the waiting list for operations. "Since we have the third highest average case severity in Germany, all these patients need their operations as soon as possible," Holzgreve said on Wednesday in response to a GA query. "In terms of order, we always go by urgency, but of course emergencies are always treated immediately."

On Tuesday afternoon, university hospitals and the Verdi trade union agreed on a key document for the collective agreement, which should provide significantly better working conditions. After more than 25 days of negotiations, the parties have agreed on a better staffing ratio, especially in patient-oriented professions.

In addition, the workload is to be measured for each shift in the daily hospital routines and, if necessary, compensation is to be provided. According to Verdi, the ratio of employees to patients will be determined for large parts of nursing, including psychiatric wards and emergency rooms. "If the ratio falls below this quota or if otherwise stressful situations arise, those affected will receive stress points. For every seven points, they are granted an additional day off to compensate for the stress. In the first year of implementation, up to eleven days off can be granted. In the second year, it is 14 and from the third year onwards a maximum of 18 additional days off," Verdi announced. Hospital staff will also be given more time for the personal guidance of trainees.

According to those involved, an average of 100 people per day went on strike in Bonn. The strike tent, which stood in a car park on the Venusberg, has already been dismantled. The UKB staff council has its offices in the immediate vicinity. "I believe that all parties involved are happy that the strike has come to an end," said Axel Tumschat, deputy chair of the staff council for non-scientific employees. "In the collective bargaining dispute itself, the staff council is obliged to remain neutral." That is why Tumschat did not want to comment on the result on Wednesday. When it comes to implementing the collective agreement, the staff council is involved.

The collective agreement comes into force on 1 January 2023, but there is a transitional phase. " The hospitals will be given one and a half years to implement and introduce the necessary IT systems," says Verdi negotiator Heinz Rech.

The so-called nursing strike will also benefit other groups of employees. According to the union, in radiology, in the company day-care centres and for therapists, among others, departmental minimum requirements for staff deployment will be fixed, and if these are not met, they will also be compensated with additional time off.

For the areas of service, IT and technology, as well as for outpatient clinics, the negotiating parties agreed on a flat rate of 30 additional full-time positions per university hospital. According to Verdi, this has led to many discussions among the staff, because: "Hospital work is teamwork and needs sufficient staff everywhere.

Collective agreement relief means upgrading for the nursing profession

In the meantime, UKB director Holzgreve had tried in vain to stop the strike by legal action. "The outcome of the negotiations is a painstakingly worked out way to relieve the burden on the nursing profession," he said on Wednesday. The special thing about the strike, he said, was that it was not about wages. "It was about the issue of easing the burden, and this can only really be achieved through more nursing staff," said Holzgreve.

In the past years, the UKB has always hired about 100 additional nurses per year and will continue to take all measures to have as many nurses as possible. "The additional relief measures now agreed with Verdi, in particular improved regulations for days off, have made us even more attractive as an employer," says Holzgreve.

Employees view the number of new hires mentioned critically, not least because colleagues continue to leave the university hospital. "Specialists are quitting and people don't even ask why they are leaving," is her experience. Nursing staff from abroad could not replace a long-standing, well-trained specialist, if only because of the language barrier.

"The working conditions must finally change so that people stay," says Anja Wagner, a specialist nurse for anaesthesia. She says the strike was a tremendous burden for everyone. "We wanted to work rather than strike, but we have also drawn a lot of strength from the past weeks and the courage to carry on," she said. We now have to follow up hard to see if the promises are kept."

(Original text: Bettina Köhl; Translation: Jean Lennox)