How critical is the situation in Austrian hospitals?

The Local Austria
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How critical is the situation in Austrian hospitals?
Austria is experiencing a shortage of nurses and doctors. Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

Austria's labour shortage is affecting its hospitals, with many warning of possible collapse in the (near) future. Here's what you need to know.


Conditions in Austrian hospitals are visibly deteriorating as hospitals lack staffing, local media has reported.

Most recently, senior physicians at Vienna's Ottakring Hospital warned of a temporary breakdown of the central emergency room in the summer due to labour shortages, as reported.

At Donaustadt Hospital, the entire neurosurgery ward will have to close due to a massive shortage of nursing staff. As a result, from June or July at the latest, twelve of the 15 beds will be moved to the emergency room, where operations will be carried out.

A growing number of hospitals in Austria are now facing concerns over the shortage of nursing staff. This is evident at the Kepler University Hospital in Linz, where nearly ten percent of the beds are out of operation due to the shortage. The situation has been described as "threatening" by Hellmut Samonigg, the rector of Graz University Hospital, as early as the end of January.

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The issue of a looming shortage of physicians has been a topic of discussion for some time now. However, in reality, there are enough doctors available - the problem lies in their uneven distribution across the country, the daily Der Standard reported. 


Austria-wide problem

For instance, there is a significant lack of anesthesiologists in many regions, and multiple child and adolescent psychiatry positions remain vacant. While the Medical University Hospital in Graz has an adequate number of medical staff, other hospitals in Austria are facing an exodus of doctors. 

The reasons for this trend are yet to be thoroughly researched, but some indicators suggest that many physicians are choosing to start their own private practices while others are leaving the medical field altogether due to mounting pressures.

The shortage of nursing staff in Austria has been a persistent issue for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated it. Even though the pandemic is now over, the problem persists, with hundreds of beds in Vienna's hospitals remaining closed due to a lack of nursing staff. 

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This shortage is attributed to the demanding nature of the job and the low pay. 

In the Vienna Health Association (Wigev), there are currently 545 vacancies in nursing - and 134 open positions for physicians. The municipal hospital operator points to a national shortage of skilled workers.


Additionally, it mentions the demographic development, with many specialists gradually reaching retirement age at the same time as the demand for medical services is increasing due to the ageing population.

Austria has tried to combat this by making the healthcare profession more attractive, including raising salaries and benefits and making efforts to recruit international nursing staff.


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