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27.03.06 17:47

Opinion

Doctors’ strike in Germany. A health system in uproar. By Dirk Brandl, Speaker NETWORK-Globalhealth

Strikes in the medical world are a highly unusual measure, and are only used by doctors, with their high sense of responsibility towards their patients, as a last resort. Things must therefore have reached a very serious pitch before doctors are prepared to undertake drastic action of this kind. And indeed they have: For years now, Germany’s health system has been in a process of decline, and has meanwhile reached a level that threatens both the livelihood of the doctors and the health care of the patients. Searching for causes at this present time seems pointless and, in view of the complexity of the situation, passing the buck to any one particular lobby inappropriate. There can be no question that many mistakes have been made in health policy in the past, and unpopular decisions avoided. Nevertheless, it seems to me to make best sense to analyse the situation without prejudice, to grasp the opportunities that lie in every crisis, and also to regard the situation as the “writing on the wall” with a message that will also apply to other countries besides Germany. We are therefore entitled to ask what this strike tells us. First, it can be stated that Germany, as a result of the Second World War, and also through the rivalry with the Socialist countries, built up one of the most comprehensive welfare systems in the world; other highly developed countries have systems that offer substantially lower benefits. Through developments in the economic sphere, generally summarised under the term “globalisation”, it has meanwhile become clear to everyone that the competition between systems and societies will not come to a standstill outside the gates of Germany, however tightly some would try to close them. In short: It may be possible for strikes to slow down the development, caused by competitive pressures, towards a levelling-down between welfare systems, but not to stop it. We are slowly starting to realise what was always the fact anyway: We are all living in one world. It also seems pointless to moan about unavoidable consequences. When the bombs are flying, moaning is not the right response in order to ensure survival. The strikes give backing to the thoughts that have been running through the NETWORK-Globalhealth and its theme networks for some time now: How can doctors make use of the opportunities offered by globalisation? In this context, the NETWORK-Lipolysis has given us a blueprint that we can also transfer to other situations: Doctors are prepared to break through the boundaries of their individual specialisations and, proceeding from various different spheres of knowledge, jointly develop new fields of therapy. The intercultural exchange fosters the introduction of new therapies, and the synergies generated can be utilised internationally, and even globally. The introduction of acupuncture into Western culture – coming from a completely different medical background – opened the doors of conventional medicine for such transfers. Rapid exchange on the latest developments in medicine, made possible through the electronic media, is what we need today.

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