You are here: MEDICA Portal. Our Topics in 2009. Topic of the Month December: Xmas-Special. Interviews.
„I Hope That I Will Have Only Few Patients“
No fairy tale: In Bad Segeberg a
physician treats people in need
without charging; © SXC
MEDICA.de talked to Uwe Denker, a 71 year old, former general practitioner and founder of the „Practice without Borders“, about copycats, evidences of incapacity and his wish list for Santa Claus.
MEDICA.de: Mister Denker, you are 71 years old and you could comfortably enjoy the retirement age. Instead, you open a practice for people in need. What is driving you?
Uwe Denker: It is primarily my Christian and social attitude that drives me. After I had to close my practice three years ago due to my age I remained chairman of the association "Health Forum Segeberg". In this position, I continued to have lots of contacts with patients but also with the departements of the city, especially the social welfare office. This way I still notice the worries of the patients and I have learned that poor people often do not consult any doctors. Two years ago then, I decided to found a "Practice without Borders". The realisation of the idea, however, has taken some time. On Wednesday, 20 January, the first consultation hour will finally take place.
MEDICA.de: Medical care of general practitioners is financed by the health insurances in Germany. Why does it need a "Practice without Borders" then?
Denker: For many people, the practice fee of ten euros that has to be paid quarterly by the patient in Germany and the out-of-pocket payments for the drugs are simply too expensive. Those who cannot afford them often stop visiting the doctor.
MEDICA.de: Are there really many people in Germany that cannot even pay the ten euros practice fee?
Denker: I will only know how many people need an offer like this when I have managed the "Practice without Borders" for about a year. Needless to say, I hope that I will have only few patients. The social welfare office of Segeberg has informed me though that around 50 families in the locality are not provided with medical care. These 50 families cannot all be treated free of charge by the surrounding practices - even more so as not all doctors feel up to pay the ten euros out of there own pocket each time. And since poverty is on the rise in my opinion, also the need for completely free treatment will increase.
MEDICA.de: Could future Germany resemble the USA where already today many uninsured people depend on help by relief organisations?
Denker: No, I do not think so. I hope that we will be able to turn away these kinds of things. Yet we will have to renounce many benefits in future. We had golden years, now we have to tighten our belts. And I think we need a reallocation - too much money is spent on administration, beaucracy, 170 health insurances, the pharma industry. Instead, more funds should reach the basis.
MEDICA.de: You will not ask the patients coming to you for any evidence of incapacity. Do you not fear copycats that only want to save ten euros without being destitute? You cannot treat all the people of Bad Segeberg for free.
Uwe Denker opens his "Practice without Borders" soon; © private
Denker: There will definitely be copycats. From other charitable associations I know that we can count with around 15 percent of such people. We put up with them since the great majority is in fact needy. Yet plenty are ashamed to admit it. Many do never disclose this fact. In order that people dare to come to us we prefer to offer the medical care anonymously. Nobody needs to show any documents, we only need to know the reason for coming. Regarding the indigence we trust the oral confirmation that the person is affected.
MEDICA.de: You need a room, devices and drugs. How do you finance the project?
Denker: The financial requirements are not huge really. The staff works voluntarily. The Workers Welfare Federal Association provides us with free with rooms on an interim basis. From April on, the municipality will most-likely give us rooms permanently. I receive drugs from pharmacies, practices, pharma companies and residential homes for the elderly. 22 tons of drugs are binned each year in Bad Segeberg. Of those, some are out of date and thus unusable, others are opened yet still okay. If a patient in a residential home is dying, all his broken drugs have to be thrown away and cannot de used for another person. So we are doing basically the same as organisations that are sharing out foodstuff that is left over: we give out resources for life that otherwise would be trashed. I currently receive inventory for the practice from all corners of the republic: two typewriters came from Freiburg and from Bad Segeberg, bandaging material from Wuppertal, a laboratory examination apparatus from Bischofswiesen, a sphygmomanometer from Schleswig, a fridge from Neversdorf. A doctor from Lübeck offered to work for us. I found all of this really touching. It also shows for a change that doctors are not always as moneygrubbing as is often said.
MEDICA.de: Do you have already everything you need then?
Denker: No, in fact I have a long wish list in which many things are not ticked yet!
MEDICA.de: And now you are waiting for Santa Claus?
Denker: Yes, exactly. Now I am waiting for Santa Claus. (laughs)
The interview was conducted by Anke Barth.