“The canton wants to actively support the affected employees”: Closing the inpatient department at the Appenzell Hospital has consequences for the staff
The new hospital building at the Appenzell location will no longer be pursued. The reason is that the cooperation partner in the field of internal medicine, the Appenzell Ausserrhoden Hospital Association, terminated the cooperation agreement “for strategic reasons” at the end of June. This also means that the inpatient department at the Appenzell Hospital will have to be closed from mid-2021.
The canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden wanted to invest 41 million francs in the new building of the Appenzell hospital. Now the tide has turned: the professional ethics committee announced on Friday at a media briefing that the planned outpatient care center plus (AVZ +) with a day clinic and an interdisciplinary bed ward could not be realized as planned. The reason: The previous cooperation partner in the field of internal medicine, the Spitalverbund Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Svar), terminated the cooperation agreement at the end of June 2021.
The project stop does not come as a complete surprise, even if the professional ethics committee has not yet seemed to move away from its plan. However, the project did not have good omens from the start: After the positive state municipality decision in 2018, Appenzell Hospital ran into financial difficulties. The stationary numbers decreased, the deficit increased.
The final decision lies with the Landsgemeinde
Due to this development, the professional ethics committee formulated two conditions at the beginning of 2020 that would have to be met for the project to continue. Not only should a trend reversal in the number of inpatient cases have to be achieved, said Landammann Roland Inauen on Friday in front of the media. The cooperation with the Ausserrhoder Spitalverbund, which has existed since the beginning of 2020, should have been established – and this is central for the professional ethics committee.
After the latter “started promisingly” according to Inauen, the Svar has now decided to “concentrate the forces on the Ausserrhoder hospitals for operational and strategic reasons”. As a result, the professional ethics committee came to the conclusion “that a new hospital cannot be built under these conditions”.
The Landsgemeinde will make the final decision to abandon the construction project. The professional ethics committee will transfer a corresponding transaction to the Grand Council for the February session.
Inpatient department will be closed at the end of June
The decision to stop the AVZ + project has immediate consequences for the hospital, operations and staff. Health Director Monika Rüegg Bless said:
“Without the Svar as a cooperation partner, there will be no acute inpatient services at the Appenzell Hospital in the future.”
The bed department will be closed at the end of June 2021; inpatient cases will be treated outside the canton from July 1. On the other hand, the outpatient offer will be continued, and the rescue and emergency service will be ensured.
In the medium term, the medical services at the Appenzell Hospital are to be further developed according to Rüegg Bless and, where necessary and expedient, expanded. This should be done in cooperation with the general practitioner community and other partners. A concept for integrated health care in Appenzell should also be developed. “This not only defines outpatient and inpatient medical services, but also intermediary offers such as Spitex, home care or possibly extended offers in long-term care.”
The professional ethics committee will immediately take on these tasks. The head of health is convinced that “we will be able to offer our population good medical and nursing care in the future too”.
There will be some downsizing
With the closure of the inpatient department, there will be a downsizing, according to the professional ethics committee. Ruedi Eberle, Chief Financial Officer and member of the Board of Directors of Appenzell Hospital, could not say on Friday how big this will be.
“However, it is important to the canton to actively support the affected employees.”
Means: Cases of hardship should be cushioned and, if necessary, a social plan should be drawn up. In addition, solutions are to be sought specifically for trainees.
Last but not least, Eberle is convinced that under the new framework conditions, attractive jobs can be maintained and, if necessary, new ones created. “A crisis is always an opportunity.”