EKlaus Gerber read the message from Rhön-Klinikum AG a few times, according to which the state wants to support the privatized university hospital in Giessen and Marburg with up to 45 million euros a year. Then the chairman of the General Works Council of the UKGM clinic, called UKGM for short, said: The agreement, which is intended to last ten years, amounts to “good business” for Rhön AG as the majority owner. The state’s willingness to pay almost half a billion euros over ten years will “still be a political issue” in the state parliament, says Gerber. The Verdi union is now calling for investments in the staff of the major hospital, which is in financial difficulties. There has been a “blatant shortage of staff” for years. The Rhön share rose by four percent.
The news from the Rhön headquarters in Franconia came faster than expected: as recently as the middle of last week, a quick agreement did not seem within reach. But on Friday evening, after the market closed, Rhön AG announced that the state was willing to pay up to 45 million euros a year for investments. Shortly before the end of the talks, the Gießen clinic director Werner Seeger had spoken in the FAZ with a call for help. His key message: UKGM is suffering from an investment backlog. The house is missing a three-digit million amount. There is even a lack of money for necessary equipment. In view of the news from Rhön-Klinikum AG, the renowned lung specialist now says: “Of course I am very relieved that a preliminary agreement has now been reached.”
Third largest university hospital in Germany
However, it remains unclear how much money Rhön-Klinikum AG intends to put into the clinic itself during this period. The message to the stock exchange says nothing about this. So far it is only a declaration of intent. Irrespective of this, Seeger emphasizes: “Further steps will have to follow, but the agreement that has now been reached will noticeably improve the working conditions in our clinics.” This fits in with Verdi’s demand. Especially since works councils in Giessen and Marburg regularly complain about a lack of staff and a high workload. And after the agreement was announced, voices from the workforce spoke up, for example on Twitter, that there was no money for staff.
Nevertheless, Seeger sees the agreement as a major step towards achieving comparable conditions with other university hospitals at the Gießen and Marburg locations. There can be no question of this at the moment: “We are now definitely on the threshold of operational processes and patient care being endangered by the lack of replacement of medical devices and the lack of device innovation,” Seeger warned last week in the FAZ
With around 9,600 employees, the third-largest university hospital in Germany needs around 80 million euros a year for new medical devices and construction projects, according to Seeger. In the past, the Ministry of Science only paid a good eight million euros to the UKGM for investments, i.e. four million per location. According to the clinic director, the only privatized university clinic in Germany also came under financial pressure because Rhön-AG recently failed to provide any alternative funding. Rather, there were only loans to his Central Hessian participation. Such behavior is more commonly known from financial investors. Due to the financing gap, however, the clinic had to make the cuts mentioned and also shoulder the interest and repayment burdens resulting from the loans.
“Admission to failure of privatization”
Since the merger of the two clinics to form UKGM and privatization in February 2006, Rhön AG has held exactly 95 percent of the shares, with the state holding five percent. Soon after the takeover, the majority owner had, among other things, a central clinic building and a new children’s clinic built in Gießen and a special facility for the treatment of certain types of cancer built in Marburg. These projects alone devoured hundreds of millions of euros. Rhön CEO Christian Höftberger admitted in December that UKGM cannot currently meet its investment commitments on its own. The group itself has exceeded the investment commitment it made in 2006. The country must do more, he demanded and spoke of “investment responsibility”. However, the ministry headed by Angela Dorn (Die Grünen) rejected this assessment. Contrary to what Höftberger stated, the UKGM does not have a claim to investment funds. Rhön rejected an agreement on this in 2013. Seven years earlier, the government under Roland Koch (CDU) had privatized the clinic in view of the enormous investment backlog at the time.
Verdi now says: “We are glad that the madness with the renunciation of investment funds from the state is now over.” Last but not least, the union criticizes the shareholder structure: The agreement is “the official admission of the failure of privatization”. In addition, Verdi misses a guarantee of permanent existence, for example.
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