From November 2020, German hospitals have been receiving allowances when their intensive care units reach a 75% occupancy. This incentive was meant to help create a buffer of intensive care beds reserved for COVID patients. But the simultaneous reduction of the total number of intensive care beds over the past 1½ years has led some to accuse hospitals of reducing their intensive care beds in order to qualify for the allowances. Until now, fact-checkers and medical associations refuted these claims, saying not enough qualified personnel could be found to maintain these beds.
But now a group of lawyers, prosecutors, and a judge have sued two large hospitals in the Saarland region for fraudulent behavior over the reduction of their capacities, as transpired in a report by the Berliner Zeitung on March 8th. In total, more than 245 million euros had been allocated to hospitals in the region up through mid-2021.
According to the lawyers, “thousands of intensive care beds in Germany disappeared from one day to the other.” It was only due to this reduction, that “eligibility conditions were met.” The criminal charge is directed at the managers of two clinics, as well as at the unspecified persons responsible for “evaluating, counting, and reporting of the number of intensive care beds.”
“The lower the absolute number of intensive care beds,” the lawyers explained, “the sooner the hospitals reached the 75% mark” required to be eligible for the allowance.
An inquiry by Astrid Schramm of Die Linke (the Left) on whether the state government of Saarland knew of cases in which “the additional intensive care beds had been fully accounted for,” or whether the “reports on occupancy and reservation of intensive care beds were factual,” could not be answered conclusively. An official statement by the state government simply admitted “not knowing about any such cases.”
For the time being, the prosecution has not been available for further comments on the matter.