German Medical Care Shrinks in Financial Crisis

The word came in earlier this morning on the @Deutschland_ Twitter-feed that I follow for EuroSavant purposes (it’s only in German):

Studie: Wirtschaftskrise beschleunigt Krankenhaussterben: Schlechte Nachricht für Patienten: Weil Länder und Kommu… than a minute ago via twitterfeed

The tweet refers to an interesting article in Der Spiegel, Economic crisis accelerates dying-out of hospitals, and normally is something I would gladly re-tweet.* But then I realized that, when it comes to news about any European country’s health system, I owe my readers a bit more than that in view of the couple of posts I wrote on that subject in the recent past, especially one on the same German system that astute readers will have perceived as particularly heavy in its irony.

Nothing ironic about this latest news from Der Spiegel, though. That’s what those Europeans get for making health care something overwhelmingly (although usually still not exclusively) a public matter: when those authorities have their budgets squeezed and must cut back, the health system feels it. The article mainly keys off of a new survey among German hospital administrators and patients from Ernst & Young. German hospitals were already disappearing at a steady rate – 2381 total in 1992, down to 2083 in 2008 – but that trend is supposed to accelerate now that the local governments that pay for them are increasingly under financial pressure, and smaller hospitals are said to be particularly vulnerable even though they often turn out to be the most efficient. For those hospitals that do carry on, more than a third of them expect to have to cut personnel, and a fifth of them even plan to reduce their number of doctors.

That study also shows some surprising parallels of the German health system with the American one. The good news: somehow a strong spirit of competition exists among hospitals there, as 81% of those surveyed termed the competitive pressure they perceived as “high” or “very high.” The bad: medical costs are rising in Germany, too, namely by about 20% since the year 2000.

*For those who follow these blogposts but not my @EuroSavant feed, you might be interested to know that I follow a number of non-English Twitter newsfeeds and often retweet interesting things that come up on them, providing my own English summary.

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