Mr. Lilie, soon only vaccinated people will be allowed to work with patients and carers. Diakonie operates almost 400 hospitals and around 3000 nursing homes. How do you look forward to March 16?
I get scared and anxious. We have always supported facility-related compulsory vaccination because it is our top priority that the people we look after are protected from the virus as well as possible. But the politicians have prepared this law so poorly that the insecurities in the houses are massive. In many departments, the rosters for March are being written these days, and the situation is already tense due to many cases of illness and quarantine orders because of Omicron. Now there is the fact that we do not know how the houses can even implement the new rule. Rarely have I seen such an important law being approached in such an unprofessional manner.
Which questions are unanswered?
Actually everyone. In a number of cases, we do not know which facilities are subject to compulsory vaccination, the federal states make their own delimitations. For example, the Diakonie runs many daycare centers, some of which also have integrative groups where disabled children are cared for. Does only the staff for the inclusive group need to be vaccinated from March or all? There is no national answer to this. Countries also take different approaches when it comes to the extent to which facilities are liable if they then allow unvaccinated staff to see patients.
In what way?
Baden-Württemberg has asked the facilities to submit lists of all employees who have not yet proven their vaccination protection against Corona by the start of compulsory vaccination. If these employees continue to work close to patients or those cared for, the owners of the facilities face liability for the violation and all the consequences. In northern Germany, the federal states are proceeding very differently, we were made to understand that the authorities cannot control compulsory vaccination in the current form anyway. This is a situation that makes those who are really trying to deal with the Corona crisis very perplexed.
Diakonie employs 600,000 people. How many are unvaccinated?
I don’t know the exact number of unvaccinated people yet, we’re just collecting them. Our vaccination status follows regional developments, but overall we are usually a little better in terms of staff than the average for the population. I reckon that the proportion of unvaccinated people is at most 10 to 15 percent.
Are these employees still on the rosters from mid-March?
First of all, we keep using them. The labor law is very clear, we can’t just throw someone out the door. According to politicians in some federal states, anyone who does not provide their vaccination certificate should first get an appointment with the local health department – however the overburdened authorities are supposed to do it. Then there is a conversation, the office sets a deadline, and when that has passed, the office imposes a ban on the unvaccinated employee entering the respective facility. Only then can we draw conclusions. Is that feasible? I find that very questionable.
Does the Diakonie then write notices?
That would be one possibility, but it is considered last. Another preferable option is to transfer the affected employees to administration, for example, where home office is possible. But this is only possible to a very limited extent, perhaps with one or two people per nursing home or hospital. The colleagues have to be very creative. It can make sense for unvaccinated employees to take parental leave where appropriate. In the meantime, hopefully they can be vaccinated, perhaps the new vaccine Novavax will increase acceptance among some. In this way, one could at least gain time to regulate the implementation of compulsory vaccination.
Can the facilities continue to operate normally in March?
My concern is that this chaos will checkmate some institutions. There are houses where 60 people are already absent because they are sick or in quarantine. We only get the shifts manned by bringing people out of the office or colleagues postponing their vacation. In view of the corona numbers, that was no surprise. Politicians should have thought about how to implement compulsory vaccination earlier. I’m stunned that that didn’t happen. This situation damages the vaccination campaign. We urgently need a nationwide uniform line, which will apply from March 16th and how the houses should proceed now. In the end, this mess still plays into the hands of democracy haters and vaccination opponents, that would be the worst thing.