SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

HEALTH

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s controversial project to recruit nursing staff from Vietnam?

Staff shortages are a problem in many sectors, but the Health area in Austria is particularly affected, with thousands of workers needed in the coming years. One province has an unusual solution for the issue.

Doctor speaking on the phone
Doctors, nurses and care professionals are in high demand in Austria. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

Austria has suffered from a health sector crisis for several years. As baby boomers retire, the sector (like many others) is having problems replacing the workforce. As a result, doctors and, in particular, nurses and 24-hour-care workers are overworked, and many are underpaid. 

The government has announced several measures to cushion the crisis and make the profession more attractive to the much-needed workers. The broad health sector reform includes a one-off bonus payment that will total €2,000 gross (for those working full-time). 

READ ALSO: More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

It also involves increasing salaries and giving longer holidays to those already in the field. Additionally, the government will invest in training and nursing scholarships. It also involves bringing in international help.

‘Importing’ nursing staff

As part of a pilot project, Lower Austria is bringing in 150 nursing staff from Vietnam to help fill up the open positions in a project that has resulted in some controversy in Austria, broadcaster ORF reported.

The centre-right party ÖVP, which runs the province, approved the project in parliament without securing approval from its coalition partners. The centre-left SPÖ and far-right party FPÖ both strongly criticised the plans.

The pilot project will bring people with some knowledge of German to participate in further courses in Austria before joining the workforce.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

“These people will be taught German at the University of Hanoi for three semesters and will then come to Lower Austria with a language level of B2,” explained Christiane Teschl-Hofmeister (ÖVP), the provincial councillor responsible for the project.

At the newly founded IMC International Nursing Center, they will then complete training as nursing assistants. After passing an exam, they will be offered a permanent job in a care facility of the provincial health agency, said the local councillor. 

The project will be implemented with the IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems from March 2023, the report added. 

A nurse puts on protective gear in the Swiss canton of Neuchatel. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

A nurse puts on protective gear. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

“These nursing staffs are not in competition with our employees, but should represent a clearly noticeable relief,” Teschl-Hofmeister emphasised.

Both the SPÖ and FPÖ have criticised the project and voted against it in the regional parliament. Franz Schnabl, head of the SPÖ and deputy head of the provincial government, called the project a “quick fix” and said they should instead invest in a local training facility with payment for students while they take nursing courses.

What do the workers think?

The controversy continues even as you look into the workers’ opinions in the sector. This is because the unions don’t agree on a position regarding the programme.

The GPA trade union criticised the plans in Lower Austria. According to GPA Lower Austria managing director Michael Pieber, there needs to be a more internal investment to attract Austrians to the profession. 

READ ALSO: Why is support for Austria’s far-right FPÖ rising?

The GPA said it is not a matter of rejecting foreign workers, but some questions, including whether or not there are guarantees that the workers will stay in the country, still need to be answered.

However, the NÖAAB, linked to the ÖVP party, referred to similar models in other federal states and with private providers. “Everything must be done to provide the best care for those affected and the greatest possible relief for nursing staff,” the organisation said.

In the opinion of the GÖD health trade union, the pilot project could help alleviate the nursing staff shortage. However, Reinhard Waldhör, chairman of the GÖD health trade union, said the training program should be “pursued further” with a focus on language acquisition to ensure integration.

International workers

Not only Vietnamese nationals would technically benefit. The federal plan’s goals is making it easier for professionals in other countries who want to immigrate. This is because they will receive “significantly more” points in the process to access the so-called Rot-Weiss-Rot (RWR) residence permit. 

RWR applicants need to reach a certain threshold of points based on criteria including age and education to get the permit.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

The government also said it would simplify the process of recognising training acquired abroad and accelerate and remove bureaucratic hurdles in the visa processes. 

On several occasions, Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Grüne) said that immigration is a significant part of solving the country’s health bottleneck

“We have a labour shortage in Austria and will need immigration in the health and social sector. We can’t solve it any other way. It simply doesn’t work out in terms of demographics”, he said. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

HEALTH

Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Austrian doctors and virologists have warned of a particularly strong flu wave this winter and recommend that people get vaccinated. Here's how to get the shot in each province.

Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Austrian experts have said there would likely be an exceptionally high wave of the flu after hardly any cases were registered in the past two years. The measures against Covid-19 prevented infections with Sars-CoV-2 – and curbed the spread of influenza and other cold viruses.

This is about to change this season as Covid measures were relaxed and airborne viruses spread again, they said.

In principle, the influenza vaccination protects against symptomatic infection for four months: “About 80 percent for H1 viruses, about 50 to 60 percent for H3 strains and 60 to 70 percent for B viruses,” said Monika Redlberger-Fritz, a virologist from Med-Uni Vienna.

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Austria

She added: “But even with vaccine breakthroughs, you are still very well protected against complications, hospitalisations and death.”

Unlike the Covid-19 vaccination, the flu jab is not organised by the federal government but by the respective provinces, which file a report only after the flu season. In every province, the vaccine is free for children, but many ask adults to pay for a fee or get it from their doctors. In Vienna, the flu vaccination is free for everyone.

Here is how to get the vaccine in each province in campaigns carried out with the participation or knowledge of the government – companies and private insurance institutions can also start their own vaccination campaigns.

Vienna

Vienna offers free flu vaccinations for every resident. You can register online with the impfservice.wien or visit one of the centres that accept people without appointments (for example, the Austria Center Vienna). 

All that is necessary is for you to bring a document with your picture and wear an FFP2 mask. If you have an e-card and a vaccination passport, bring those with you as well. There is also a form to fill out, but those are available on-site.  

Lower Austria

The flu vaccine is free for children from six months to 15-years-old, and they can get the shot from established medical specialists. For those who are older, it is possible to receive the vaccination from a registered specialist, company medical service or from their employer, but they may be charged for it.

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Upper Austria

Children aged six months to 15 can get the vaccine for free with their general practitioners and paediatricians. However, you may need to get the vaccine components at the pharmacy with a voucher and register with your doctor.

Older people can get the vaccination directly at vaccination sites in their district for €15. Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

Styria

In Styria, children from six months to age 15 get the vaccine for free with paediatricians or public health services of their district authorities.  Older adults can get it from the public health service for €16 or €27 if they are older than 65. 

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Carinthia

Children (from six months to 15 years) can get the vaccine for free in doctor’s offices or public health centres. You can check HERE for more information and register. For older people, the price is €22, though prices could be different if you go to your doctor instead of a vaccination centre.

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

Burgenland

Children aged six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free in pharmacies and with their physicians. At-risk patients older than that can also get free vaccines, but only while supplies last. 

Otherwise, buying and paying for the vaccine in a pharmacy or with your general practitioner is possible. There are also free vaccinations in elderly and care homes. 

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Salzburg

Children from six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free with any doctor offering it. You can check with your family doctor or paediatrician. Anyone over 15 that wants to get it needs to buy it at a pharmacy (prices vary depending on the vaccine used) and can ask their family doctor. 

There are free vaccinations for residents of elderly and care homes. 

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Salzburg HERE.

Tyrol

The flu vaccine is free for children from six months to the age of 15 years, and they can get it directly from their doctor (a general practitioner or a paediatrician, for example). For those older, it’s possible to vaccinate with their family doctors, but prices vary for the product and pharmacies and the doctor’s fee. 

Residents of elderly and nursing homes aged 60 and over get the vaccination free of charge.

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Tyrol HERE.

Vorarlberg

In Vorarlberg, children aged six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free with their doctors. Adults can also get it from general practitioner’s offices but will need to pay variable costs (depending on doctor fees and which vaccine they choose).

There are free vaccinations for residents of elderly and care homes. 

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Vorarlberg HERE.

SHOW COMMENTS