Nursing staff in Corona crisis: The applause has long since faded away


Applause is too little – that’s why the federal government has launched a corona bonus for nursing staff. But critics say: that’s not enough. A bonus does not solve the problems.

By Claudia PlaƟ, ARD capital studio

Care has been particularly hard hit by the corona pandemic. At the beginning there was a lot of applause. Numerous people stood on their balconies and at the windows in the evening and thanked them with applause for the commitment of the nursing staff, who deserved special recognition in the pandemic.

Since then, politics has initiated a lot to relieve the nursing staff. But critics say: that’s not enough. Too little money, too few staff, too much workload: the problems in the industry quickly became apparent.

Applause is not enough, for example, said Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil in the spring – just as little as the higher minimum wages for care that had already been decided. It is precisely at this time that one sees that the service providers are not always the ones in suits and ties, but rather those “in smocks who work in geriatric care and nursing”. The SPD politician called for a collective agreement and more money for caregivers.

Care bonuses for elderly and nursing staff

In order to combat the lack of care, the federal government had created 13,000 jobs for skilled workers. However, so far only part of it has been occupied. Verena Bentele, President of the Social Association, was not the only one to list the shortcomings in the industry: “Working hours are a problem for many, especially when they want to combine family and work”, the pay is bad, and it is also unsatisfactory professional development.

Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn also emphasized that care must be strengthened. Care was “the social question of the 20s,” repeated the CDU politician in the corona pandemic. A care bonus of EUR 1000 plus EUR 500 additional payment by the federal states was initiated. The one-off payment initially applied to nursing staff in retirement homes. Later, a bonus of up to 1000 euros was also decided for nurses in hospitals – for staff who are particularly stressed by caring for Covid 19 patients.

In addition, there should be another 20,000 jobs for nursing assistants, as well as better training. With measures like these, according to Spahn, “the nursing profession is not only strengthened through appreciation and applause, but also through concrete changes in everyday life.”

After collective bargaining in the public sector, there is also more money. Nursing staff can expect up to 8.7 percent more wages, intensive care workers receive up to ten percent more – in addition to the corona bonus. Experts complain, however, that only some of the nursing staff benefit. Because most hospitals and nursing homes are not in municipal hands.

Small steps in the right direction

The care policy spokeswoman for the Greens parliamentary group, Kordula Schulz-Asche, describes the measures for better care in an interview with the ARD capital studio as small steps in the right direction. However, she criticizes the Corona premiums: Instead of short-term cash benefits, more staff are needed in the long term.

In addition, just one law is not enough for more jobs: just because politicians want that, the nursing staff does not necessarily come. “You have to go back to it and just have to come up with new, modern care structures,” as she says. Schulz-Asche also calls for better training and further education for patient-oriented care. She hopes that in future the crisis will also be used as an opportunity to initiate long overdue improvements.

Rewards cause “more anger and frustration”

The President of the German Care Council, Franz Wagner, criticizes the political measures of the past few months as inadequate – example of Corona premiums. Upon request of the ARD capital studios he said in writing: The bonuses “caused more anger and frustration than they actually represent recognition of nursing work”. The distribution takes place very differently. It is largely supplemented by grants from the federal states. The procedure is not uniform, so there is no overview. In addition, only a small part of the hospitals are eligible for the premium.

Wagner also advocates better pay and more staff, among other things. He demands that “the experiences from the pandemic finally bring about a political rethink”. Long-term and reliable investments must be made in the nursing profession.

During a digital citizens’ dialogue with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the nurse Ann-Sophie Bruchner recently described the situation in a local home again: They had come up with a few ideas so that residents and relatives could contact them. She would like “the appreciation of the nursing staff. The appreciation that we are important.” It is important that this goes down in society.

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