Health Minister Johannes Rauch, from the Greens, expressed concern over the perplexing COVID-19 vaccination options for practicing doctors. He warned of potential setbacks in health reform due to the prevailing confusion.
Speaking on ORF’s “Press Hour,” Rauch conveyed an improved understanding of the current COVID-19 situation compared to a year ago. The moderately rising numbers and roughly 200 hospitalizations are viewed as non-alarming. Rauch emphasized the importance of booster shots, particularly for the elderly, and recommended mask-wearing in crowded settings. While he didn’t rule out reinstating mask mandates in dire circumstances, current advisories are deemed sufficient.
Rauch acknowledged the criticism regarding the intricate vaccination process in the private sector of Austria. He stated that if the existing system fails to expedite vaccinations within a week, the Ministry of Health would reorganize the approach to ensure accessibility and efficiency.
During financial equalization negotiations, Rauch urged federal states to uphold their state political responsibility. He commended the substantial two billion euro allocation for the health sector and care.
Rauch emphasized that financial equalization is imperative for successful healthcare reform, cautioning of potential challenges in five years if reform efforts are not realized. Despite the complexity, Rauch expressed confidence in reaching an agreement by mid-October, citing progress and support from the finance minister and states.
Rauch opposed the notion of implementing an ambulance fee to alleviate pressure on hospital outpatient departments. Instead, he emphasized the need to enhance working conditions for healthcare personnel, invest in training, and facilitate recruitment from abroad to address staffing shortages.
Rauch advocated for a collaborative approach with neighboring countries like Germany, as Austria’s size and federal structure call for unified efforts.
Rauch reiterated the call to integrate more doctors into the statutory health insurance system. He emphasized the importance of creating an attractive framework for both statutory health insurance physicians and elective doctors.
Additionally, Rauch stated that Austria has fulfilled its responsibilities in addressing medication shortages and called for a legal framework at the European level.
Regarding anti-inflation measures, Rauch highlighted Austria’s success in preserving purchasing power. While he acknowledged initial government measures were robust, he emphasized their effectiveness in combating poverty.
In response to pensioner representatives’ calls for improved pension increases, Rauch asserted that pension reform is not a current priority. He emphasized the need to align actual retirement age with legal retirement age before further discussions on pension enhancements can take place.