Frustration around vaccination does not only prevail among those who are waiting to be vaccinated. There is dissatisfaction in vaccination centers; the armed forces commissioner receives input from soldiers who feel they have been exploited. One went public anonymously.
Without the forces of the Bundeswehr, Germany would have even more problems with the mammoth task of vaccinating – but some soldiers have problems with administrative assistance: The Armed Forces Commissioner of the German Bundestag, Eva Högl, told t-online that “lately (…) frequent submissions by soldiers on the subject of administrative assistance [gab].”
Around 3,200 soldiers help in 223 vaccination centers and in 76 mobile vaccination teams nationwide. For the most part it works excellently, but: “We definitely have inputs that express criticism of the design of the administrative assistance.” Soldiers who are used to tight organization encounter poorly organized processes – that creates resentment. Especially when the helpers only feel perceived as cheap labor, whose use is a matter of course.
Criticism from a soldier in the Bundeswehr
In an anonymous posting on Reddit, a soldier vented his frustration. According to information from t-online, there is actually a Bundeswehr soldier behind the post. However, it cannot be proven whether his descriptions are correct. His conclusion: there is poor information, nothing is improving in the processes. He is being used for this purpose – and has noticed on the account that the accommodation is not being paid for him. At least that could be a misunderstanding.
According to his own statements, the soldier is convinced of the sense of his mission in a small vaccination center in Thuringia. It is currently a hotspot where 36 people were initially vaccinated a day. In the article he is annoyed on the one hand about experiences that could upset all those involved in the vaccination center: the slow vaccination rate, although logistically more would be possible – and then also those to be vaccinated reported to the center who want to postpone their fixed second appointment because they are “there on vacation”. “What are these people thinking?”
For two, seven days from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
On the other hand, it is about his role as a soldier: with a comrade, he covers the registration seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. “You shouldn’t be surprised if the same soldiers get tired and have accumulated enough overtime not to be in the unit for the rest of the year.”
In addition, complaints from soldiers can be heard more frequently: Some of them are in constant use, sometimes there are no tasks for them or they are only used for work that everyone else does not like. And: Your commitment will be taken for granted. “There is no prospect of replacing us there, on the contrary, the administrative assistance application will probably be extended,” complained the soldier. “Actually, some comrades have been gone for months.” The rule is that deployed staff are released from administrative assistance about every three weeks and replaced by new staff in a “rotating system”. But the members of the army, actually intended as emergency helpers when there are no civilian helpers, are now scheduled for the operation for months.
Defense Commissioner Högl: “Can’t stay like this in the long run”
A point that the Armed Forces Commissioner Högl also sees critically: The Bundeswehr helps where it is asked. “In many places it is about more than just support; it is not uncommon for the soldiers to keep operations going in health offices, in vaccination centers. It cannot stay that way in the long term.” What is needed is an open and honest discussion on how we can achieve better resource management in crisis situations of the future. “For the Bundeswehr, the administrative assistance means a considerable burden in addition to the basic operations and the diverse operational loads.”
In Thuringia, the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KV) is responsible for the operation of the vaccination centers and can currently fall back on 100 members of the Bundeswehr. In order to gradually replace them with civilian check-in helpers, another 200 people would have to be recruited, according to a spokeswoman for t-online. That is an “enormous logistical effort”, but KV is making an “absolute” effort. At the same time, she is planning further vaccination centers in Thuringia, where the Bundeswehr should also help. These are easily available forces for KV, but cost savings do not play a role: KV is already writing bills for the state of Thuringia. The first over four million euros for preparations and operation from November to February lies with the state.
Soldiers should not save resources for other agencies
The competent Bundeswehr agencies have little insight into whether it would really not work without soldiers: “The procedure for the possible recruitment of civilians who could possibly take over the tasks of the Bundeswehr forces is beyond the competence of the Bundeswehr,” said the following a speaker. Administrative assistance should not be given in order to “spare another authority the resources and expenditure required for its tasks”. In applications it must be made clear that the applicant body is not in a position to carry out the official act itself.
The soldiers are apparently also welcome among the visitors to the vaccination centers. Citizens often turned to the uniformed people when they expected help, the soldier reports happily on Reddit. The vaccination candidates are apparently hoping for competent help there. But: He can often not answer people’s questions because the flow of information is so poor.
After the vaccinations with the Astrazeneca drug were suspended, he found out from a patient who received a text message from KV on his cell phone in front of the door, how things will proceed: “That the appointments should not be replaced, but should be vaccinated with a different vaccine that we didn’t even have “. Those responsible at the top would give their best, but often have no management experience. And the KV acts according to the principle of “leadership through knowledge advantage.”
KV: We would like to clarify directly
The KV spokeswoman regrets that the criticism is anonymous, so any problems could not be clarified directly with the soldier. “We cannot understand criticism of the passing on of information, since the vaccination centers receive information on how to proceed several times a week.” Is it true that two soldiers ensure operations from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week? “We have no influence on the total number of soldiers supporting us, we only apply for a number per shift for seven days a week.” Responsibility is shifted back and forth.
The Armed Forces Base Command of the Bundeswehr sees it as a guarantee “that it is possible to react quickly and directly to information on the spot if optimizations in the administrative assistance could be expedient”. The administrative assistance operations would be “accompanied and advised by superiors in close, helping service supervision”. Means: If there are problems in the vaccination center, the soldiers should contact their superiors at any time. That often brings a quick solution, explains the defense officer. However, cases have already landed with her in which she asked the ministry to put an end to grievances or unequal treatment.
Prepayment for food and accommodation?
The soldier from the Reddit post would also be such a case if he turned to the military commissioner with his name and description of the allegedly refused compensation of his costs – the armed forces commissioner could not do anything anonymously. Allegedly, the KV canceled the promised compensation for food and hotel. “Then you can pay in advance and discuss with the Bundeswehr service center (the former site administration, editor’s note) why the only open hotel in town was now a bit too expensive,” he writes.
The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians clearly rejects this: “That is not correct. The KV either provides free food or pays food and provides free accommodation,” said the spokeswoman. The command armed forces base also declares: “Forces of the Bundeswehr who provide administrative assistance never have to pay accommodation costs out of their own pocket on site”. The agencies involved could apply to the Bundeswehr for reimbursement of accommodation costs. The Bundeswehr is checking this and determining the amount of the reimbursement.
That should also be one of the small problems in the pandemic.