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Thousands of doctors are on strike – because of 65 million hours of overtime

Thousands of doctors across Germany have stopped working and numerous surgeries have to be postponed. At a rally of the doctors’ union, frustration boils over. Many medical professionals are completely overworked – and angry.

In many municipal hospitals, doctors took part in a nationwide warning strike by the Marburger Bund this Thursday. The doctors’ union had called for a central rally on the Frankfurt Römer.

The Marburger Bund is demanding a linear salary increase of 5.5 percent for the approximately 55,000 doctors for a period of one year. In addition, there should be clear limits for on-call services and a general limitation of on-call service to a maximum of twelve on-call services per month. The employers offered 3.3 percent more wages in two stages.

Frustration is high among the strikers on the Römer. Mahmoud Khalaf, doctor on the cardiology ward at the Coburg Clinic, says t-online: “The current conditions are a disaster.” There is no time for private life, he has been working late and night shifts for months: free weekends – none. “We’ve been suffering for two years,” Khalaf said.

Doctors are on strike at the Römer in Frankfurt

The reason: the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the working conditions have become much more difficult. Nobody really thanked the doctors for their work. “It’s not just that we want more money. Above all, we want to improve our work situation,” says Khalaf.

Mahmoud Khalaf: The doctor from the Coburg Clinic calls for an improvement in working hours.  (Source: t-online/Roxana Frey)Mahmoud Khalaf: The doctor from the Coburg Clinic calls for an improvement in working hours. (Source: Roxana Frey/t-online)

The Marburger Bund announced that around 50 hospitals in Hesse were affected on Wednesday – several hundred clinics across Germany were even involved. Around 4,000 strikers were present at the rally in Frankfurt alone.

Doctors' strike at the Römer in Frankfurt: Thousands of doctors lay down their work on Thursday.  (Source: t-online/Roxana Frey)Doctors’ strike at the Römer in Frankfurt: Thousands of doctors lay down their work on Thursday. (Source: Roxana Frey/t-online)

And that while corona record incidences are being noted in Germany. dr Andreas Botzlar, second chairman of the Marburg Association, is aware of the difficult time. In a video on YouTube he says: “Corona has Germany under control and there is war in Ukraine – and the Marburger Bund has nothing better to do than to call for a warning strike. Some may ask. That’s how it is, but the VKA is forcing us to it.” For six months, the federal government has been trying to reach an agreement with the Association of Municipal Employers’ Associations (VKA).

VKA: Unrealistic demands would put a massive strain on the municipal clinics

So far without result. The VKA regards the demands as “unrealistic”. “The strike call by the Marburg Federation in no way reflects the actual status of the negotiations, it is completely exaggerated,” said Wolfgang Heyl, chief negotiator at the VKA, in a press release on Wednesday.

The demands of the union would overwhelm the municipal clinics – not only in financial terms. This means that the labor dispute is at the expense of the entire population.

dr  Susanne Johna on strike in Frankfurt: The warning strike is a reaction to the behavior of the Association of Municipal Employers' Associations.  (Source: t-online/Roxana Frey)dr Susanne Johna on strike in Frankfurt: The warning strike is a reaction to the behavior of the Association of Municipal Employers’ Associations. (Source: Roxana Frey/t-online)

dr Susanne Johna, Federal President of the Marburger Bund, complains that doctors are currently working around 65 million hours of overtime every year. Is that at the expense of the sick? “The well-being of our patients is non-negotiable,” Johna calls out to the strikers at the Römer.

The strikers clap. One of them is Darya: The doctor has just completed her first year at the Porz am Rhein Clinic. She feels almost chronically ill: “The stress is enormous and I’m now reaching my physical limits,” says Darya.

She calls for better measurements of overtime. There is a system for this, but a lot of overtime is not properly recorded. She finds that “unfair”. She now works around 60 hours a week.

Demonstrator with a sign: Darya is also on strike in Frankfurt for better working conditions.  (Source: t-online/Roxana Frey)Demonstrator with a sign: Darya is also on strike at the Römer in Frankfurt for better working conditions. (Source: Roxana Frey/t-online)

In the 2019 collective bargaining dispute, the Römerberg was the scene of an impressive rally by striking doctors from municipal clinics. According to the federal government, medical care should not be jeopardized, usually through emergency service agreements with the respective clinics.

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