Due to high tensions and a mass rush of people wanting to be vaccinated, medical staff at their limits, according to an association representing doctors in a part of western Germany.
And some family doctors are pulling out of the vaccination rollout.
“We now have a dangerous development: numerous GP practices are opting out of the vaccination system,” chairman of the North Rhine GP association, Oliver Funken, told the Rheinische Post newspaper.
The GPs were experiencing an extremely aggressive mood as the demand for vaccines increases, said Funken. At the moment, phones in practices are constantly ringing, and GPs are having difficulties keeping up a regular supply of vaccines.
The head of the association also referred to the heavy workload for those working in doctor offices.
“Of course we want to help the population, but we also have to keep the welfare of the employees in mind,” said Funken. “And also the continued existence of the practice.”
He added that it was not acceptable for staff to feel they have to opt out due to the chaotic situation and because they can’t cope with the mass influx.
Germany began allowing GPs to vaccinate patients starting in April, and has seen its campaign pick up in speed since then
New freedoms for the vaccinated increasing demand
However, several German states, including Berlin, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, have already gone ahead and scrapped their priority lists from this week, but only in GPs or specialists.
Some people are visiting a doctor and demanding a shot, Funken told DPA.
The mood has become more acute the closer the holidays come – and the more freedoms beckon. “People want to belong to the three groups: recovered from coronavirus, vaccinated or tested,” Funken explained.
As The Local has been reporting, Germany eased some Covid-19 restrictions this month for fully vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from coronavirus. For instance, these groups do not have to quarantine after travel unless they are returning from a ‘virus variant area of concern’, such as India.
New travel rules also mean that people who test negatively for Covid-19 do not have to quarantine when they return from some countries.
Chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery also raised concerns about lifting the priority list.
“The GPs are overburdened by the removal of prioritisation,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday. “Now it is also up to the citizens not to call practices all at once and immediately.”
“The mood in the practices is not good,” Anke Richter-Scheer, chairwoman of the general practitioners’ association Westfalen-Lippe, told broadcaster WDR.
The shortage of vaccines is felt first and foremost by the teams in the doctors’ practices. “They have to put off impatient and sometimes angry patients,” Richter-Scheer said.
The head of the North Rhine GP association Funken hopes that additional supplies will ease the situation at the end of the month.
However, he has concerns about the summer. During the holiday months, bottlenecks are looming as many GPs and their staff will go on holiday. “We have to assume that 30 percent of the doctors’ practices will close for one or two weeks during the summer holidays,” Funken said.
300,000 vaccinations per week
The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians of Westphalia-Lippe said about 80 percent of GPs and 20 percent of specialists in the area are participating in the vaccination campaign.
A spokesperson said there had been individual cases in which doctors had decided to stop ordering vaccines.
In the Westphalia-Lippe region alone, about 300,000 vaccine doses are administered in the practices every week. The number of doses has remained about the same, but more practices are coming forward to give out shots.
In Germany 38.1 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 11.9 percent are fully vaccinated.
On Tuesday May 18th, 828,213 jabs were administered to people across the country. In recent weeks, Germany has broken European records for the number of shots given out in one day.