Germany’s annual health ministerial conference is being held in Saxony this time around. Health ministers from the national and regional levels are gathering today and tomorrow (5-6 June) here in Leipzig. However, the occasion is bound to be a bit less smooth than expected, since groups have taken to the streets in protest against current conditions in their sector.
Led by the labor unions ver.di and Krankenhaus statt Fabrik, the peaceful protests began Wednesday morning in the Beethovenstraße area, as the public health conference was also kicking off.
The protesters are mainly from the healthcare sector. Among them are doctors, geriatric nurses, hospital and rehabilitation facility workers, psychiatrists, and medical students. There are also patients in their midst. They have come to Leipzig from all over the country to make their voices heard.
According to pamphlets obtained at the protests, they are speaking out against issues stemming from the liberalization of healthcare in Germany. This includes economic market competition and the profits and privatization of hospitals.
The protesters call for better working conditions and higher wages, as well as for incentives to get more workers into understaffed areas of healthcare.
The shortages are so severe – due to the aging of the German population and other issues – that programs are regularly bringing in young workers from abroad. Lack of labor does not only affect the healthcare sector, however; Handelsblatt reports that “staff in industries like construction, hospitality, security services, transport, logistics, childcare and education are particularly scarce.”
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) and Saxony’s Health Minister Barbara Klepsch (CDU) have indicated that they would like to speak at one of the rallies surrounding the Leipzig conference, also according to the pamphlets. Protesters declined to give LeipGlo an interview.
Meanwhile, the main topics to be discussed during the ministerial conference are digitization in the healthcare sector, a possible requirement to vaccinate against measles, and regulations on organ donation.