Starting in the summer, the on-call service of general practitioners shall be compensated. Interregional cooperation during the off-season could provide additional relief for doctors. Corresponding talks are being held with all parties concerned.
The eleven municipalities of the Simmental and Saanenland jointly founded Gesundheit Simme Saane AG (GSS) on 15 October 2019 and the company was entered in the commercial register in December 2019. In the meantime, financing has been provided by the municipalities. The municipalities, the canton and Spital STS AG have secured the funds for the current year, as chairman of the board Stephan Hill writes in a press release. The municipalities contribute CHF 300,000, the canton CHF 100,000 and Spital STS AG CHF 50,000.
What infrastructure is needed?
GSS has two main tasks. “Together with STS AG and the canton, it will be defined how and in what dimensions the Zweisimmen hospital will be rebuilt, extended or newly built. Together we will assess the future space requirements before the detailed building documentation is drawn up,” says Hill. It is not primarily about today’s needs. “We need to look into the future and assess as best we can what infrastructure we will need in the next 15 to 20 years.”
The future of outpatient care
However, the future of outpatient care is currently more urgent. “That’s where the shoe pinches immediately.” In the course of about 17 individual and group discussions with the doctors of the Saanenland and the Simmental, the current situation was analysed. “In the coming years there will be numerous retirements of the GPs. It is therefore a primary goal for us to offer support here so that these gaps can be closed as soon as possible”. It is not easy to find primary care physicians and even more so for a region that is so far from any urban centres. “This is a challenge that not only we are struggling with, it is a national issue,” says Hill.
Compensation for weekend service
In order to relieve the burden on GPs, they are to be compensated for weekend services during the low season as from this summer. “In high season, this service is largely funded by patients who visit a practice or who need to be visited,” Hill explains. “In the off-season, the doctors here perform an on-call service, which ties them to the practice and which is often not compensated because very few patients come”.
The GSS is currently working on the framework to determine under which circumstances these compensations could be paid. This will also be coordinated with the GSI (Health, Social and Integration Directorate). The canton will have the option of making such compensations, but only starting from 2021, explains Hill and emphasises: “We can’t wait that long, we need an interim solution.”
He intends to use part of the CHF 450,000 to finance this transitional solution. “Since many questions are still open, we will refrain from hiring a managing director for the time being, which means that we have a large budget position available.” He had discussed this idea in advance with the director of health and the cantonal medical officer, who both signaled support.
As the discussions with the GPs had shown, the number of working days was also a burden for them. This is why Hill proposes an interregional cooperation – at least during the off-season. “Over the holidays and a few weeks in February and March there is a lot going on, so we need doctors on duty in both regions,” Hill explains. But in the off-season, interregional cooperation – the exact perimeter of which remains to be defined – would bring great relief. “The number of working days could be almost halved,” says Hill.
These two measures – compensation for weekend services and reduction of the number of days of service – would also make employment conditions more attractive, which would make it easier to find new doctors. “We are currently talking with doctors and other circles who can put us in touch with doctors,” says Hill. “We offer our support for a branch office and networking with other doctors in the region and the hospital. At present, various medical professionals are considering becoming active in our region.” Specifically, it is about Saanen, Lenk, Zweisimmen and the lower Simmental. “We are in exchange with the local authorities concerned, who actively support this common cause”.
Based on AvS/Anita Moser