14. March 2024
// Care Worldwide

How is nursing care organised in Austria?

Alexander Zambo, Managing Director of our partner ZS Medizintechnik, describes the system in the Alpine country

When nursing care and health are discussed in Germany, the focus is usually on ways out of the crisis and the pros and cons of reforms. But what is the situation in other countries? Do they have good concepts that can serve as an international model? We spoke to Alexander Zambo, managing director of ZS Medizintechnik in Austria. The up-and-coming company from the Burgenland region is very successful in selling hospital and homecare beds from Stiegelmeyer and Burmeier in Austria and south-east Europe.

How is nursing care paid for in Austria?

The care system in Austria is part of the social welfare system and differs from the German system primarily in that there are no personally consumable non-monetary benefits. Instead, the care allowance is purely a monetary benefit. It is paid to the resident twelve times a year. There are also allowances for defined services. Non-monetary benefits are only used indirectly in Austria, for example in that the construction of nursing homes can be financed from tax revenue, but these costs are not added to the cost of a place in a nursing home.

How does the state collect the funds for the care allowance?

Via taxes and social security contributions on wages.

Let's look at a specific example: an 80-year-old woman falls and needs nursing support at home after being discharged from hospital. How do she or her relatives proceed?

They apply for care allowance from the relevant social insurance organisation. An assessment is then carried out. In order to receive any care allowance at all, the monthly care requirement must be over 65 hours. If you can prove this, you will be categorised into one of seven care allowance levels. At present, care level 1 (65 to 95 hours) receives 192 euros per month and care level 7 (over 180 hours, no targeted movements possible) 2,061.80 euros. You can see from these amounts: The care allowance does not provide full care, but is a supplement. In most cases, those affected are expected to bear the majority of their costs themselves.

How are the care needs of those affected assessed?

Firstly through an assessment by their doctor. The doctor writes an assessment, which is submitted to the social insurance company with the application for care allowance. Officials there check the application, usually from their desks. If they reject the application, the doctor can draw up a new assessment. It is quite common for applications to be rejected several times. In such cases, the experts from the insurance company also visit in person to get an idea of the situation.

Who pays if homecare is no longer sufficient and the person concerned has to move into a nursing home?

The care allowance and the resident's income or pension are used to finance a place in the nursing home. If this is not sufficient, the resident must pay the difference themselves from their other assets. If there are no assets, there is a subsidy under the Social Assistance and Minimum Security Act. Children are not required to pay their parents' nursing home costs. There are a total of around 900 nursing homes in Austria.

Let's go back to homecare: what care services are available in Austria?

Firstly, there is informal nursing care provided by relatives and care provided by staff from within the country and abroad. Then, as in Germany, there are mobile services: Home nursing, family assistance, meals on wheels, visiting and counselling services. There is day centre care, where people are looked after during the day and taken home again in the evening. And there is assisted living, including alternative forms of housing. In Vienna, for example, young people who cannot afford their own room can move in with older people. They receive discounted accommodation and help those in need of care with their daily tasks.

What does the supply of care beds look like? In the Austrian monetary benefits system, do residents have to pay for the purchase of a bed themselves with their care allowance?

In principle, yes, but there are differences between the federal states. Two federal states pay subsidies for the bed rental, and in Vienna the health insurance fund pays the rental under certain circumstances.

Where can you get the beds?

In specialised medical supply stores, just like in Germany. And in Austria, too, you can either rent or buy care beds there. Interestingly, in percentage terms, the willingness to buy a high-quality bed is higher in Austria than in Germany. This can be seen in our statistics, for example, in the strong performance of the homelike Regia care bed from Burmeier. This high proportion of self-purchased beds also leads to a large market for second-hand beds.

Austria is often cited as a social role model in Germany, especially with regard to its higher pensions. Does the nursing care system also work better than the German one?

The basic problem is the same: there is just as glaring a shortage of nursing staff here as in Germany. In Burgenland, family carers can even be employed by the state, receive a net wage of 1,200 to 2,000 euros and are covered by social insurance. The prerequisite is that the person in need of care is categorised between care level 3 and level 7. This offer is gladly accepted, but is still not enough to compensate for the shortage of nursing staff. In contrast to Germany, however, there is no wave of insolvencies in nursing homes and hospitals in Austria; on the contrary, many new, often particularly beautiful homes are being built. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find staff. In the hospital sector, staff shortages are leading to the temporary closure of wards - here in Oberwart, for example, the maternity ward was closed over the weekend due to the high rate of sick leave.

ZS Medizintechnik also supplies Stiegelmeyer and Burmeier beds to many of Austria's neighbouring countries.  What is the situation in the nursing care and healthcare sector there?

Our neighbouring countries are all major growth markets. In Slovenia, the situation in homecare is developing so positively that we are expecting success in the premium segment this year with the Regia from Burmeier. In Croatia and Romania, many new clinics are currently being built with the help of the EU. Serbia, which is not yet a member of the EU, is also receiving subsidies. Stiegelmeyer has long been a well-known brand in Eastern European countries because many older beds were purchased from Germany in the 1990s or received as donations, which then proved to be very successful. These are the best conditions for us.

Thank you very much for the interesting conversation

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Anton Schlee has been the Customer Relationship Manager of the Stiegelmeyer Group since March 2023.