What's the Connection Between Feminism and Hospital Strikes?

For more staff, better wages, and humane healthcare! In recent years, the hospital movement has striked extensively to improve the situation of patients and employees. Find out here what role feminism plays in the fight against cost pressure and profit orientation in hospitals.

Workers in the hospital are on strike for better working conditions, relief and better care for patient.

Business Logic in Hospital Organization

Nationwide, nurses and hospital employees have long been complaining about the significant deterioration of their working conditions in recent years. The switch to the so-called DRG (Diagnosis Related Groups) or case-based payment system for hospital funding is primarily criticized. This is because it has led to the introduction of a business logic into hospital organization.


How Does the DRG System Work?

Diagnosis Related Groups (DRG) are case groups into which patients are classified based on their diagnosis, disease complexity, and other medical conditions. Fixed rates are established for each of these groups, determining how much money hospitals receive for the treatment of patients. Depending on the case group, some treatments can be more profitable than others. If hospitals do not operate profitably under this system, they face the risk of closure or sale.

economization and business logic in hospitals are dangerous for workers and patients
This leads, for example, to the fact that mainly profitable treatments are carried out. Or that staff is reduced or employees are outsourced from the hospital and work in a subsidiary. There, they earn less than hospital employees because they no longer receive wages according to the public service collective agreement - which often is higher than other collective agreements or even no collective agreement at all. The so-called "economization" in hospitals therefore leads to cost savings at the expense of employees and good patient care.

But What Is the Connection Between Feminism and Hospital Strikes?

The economization of everyday hospital life is not only concerned with health as a "value" – it organizes it in a way that profits can be generated. It does so in a specific and familiar way. With the introduction of the DRG system, a new and at the same time old hierarchy of activities in nursing and obstetrics has taken place: medically-technical, time-sensitive activities such as administering medication, inserting needles or performing procedures are given greater weight. Emotional-relational activities such as listening, building trust, washing hair, or other important things that are essential for patient recovery are deemed less important.

traditionally female care work is not profitable in the hospital
That means: There is pressure to reduce these activities as much as possible. For patients in hospitals, this means that conversations are cut out, there is no room for worries, fears or the desire for freshly washed hair, and there is no time for building trust in relationships. In short, economization shows itself in the reduction of care, affective, social and communicative work - of all that is more than just the administration of physical bodies. This is no coincidence. It follows a male-capitalist logic. That is, a logic in which activities that are more commonly attributed to men are given greater importance.
Patients are systematically neglected in the hospital due to economization
What is currently happening in hospitals and what the employees are fighting against is, on the one hand, the cost pressure and ongoing personnel cuts, which forces them to work under time constraints until exhaustion. On the other hand, it is also the elimination of tasks that employees and patients consider important for recovery, such as providing comfort in times of anxiety, explaining what is happening, or assisting with personal hygiene to ensure the well-being of individuals even when they are hospitalized. If a mother, for example, cannot go to the toilet after giving birth in the hospital because the newborn baby is crying and the midwives on the ward do not have time to take care of her and explain how to deal with the new situation - this is not a situation that we can accept.

What Were Important Strikes in Recent Years?

In recent years the Berlin hospital movement initiated by Ver.di made headlines with their strikes at the two largest state-owned hospitals, Charité and Vivantes, as well as Vivantes' subsidiaries, bringing attention to the healthcare system in Berlin. Further strikes for better working conditions took place in six university clinics in North Rhine-Westphalia, marking the largest and longest strikes for better working conditions since the first strike for more staff at Charité in 2015.


Strikes in University Hospitals in NRW

In a tough but powerful struggle, employees in North Rhine-Westphalia have also succeeded in fighting for better working conditions. This means: more staff in nursing stations, for maternity care and midwives, as well as for other areas that are not directly related to patient care - yet are essential to healthcare in hospitals, such as catering or patient transportation.


Fighting for the Safety of Patients and Good Childbirth!

The hospital strikes advocate for: more staff and relief from unbearable conditions in hospitals. And for a dignified care, in which it's not just about money, but the well-being of patients. However, this is only possible if various work processes are not played off against each other. It must be clear that all of these things are important for good care.

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Text by Julia Dück. Online Editing: Alina Kopp. This post is published under the terms of the Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0 (external link, opens in a new window)! Share, use and adapt this post for your educational work. Don't forget to republish it under the same conditions and mention L!NX and the authors!

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