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Hospital bed. Photo credit: Frederic Köberl
Berlin

Fraud: German hospitals collected funding without ever treating a Corona patient

In connection with the Corona crisis, numerous German hospitals have collected money on fraudulent grounds. Millions are at stake.

Published: March 8, 2022, 8:27 am

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    German hospitals are alleged to have cheated during the Corona crisis in order to collect millions for intensive care beds. In the first wave of the pandemic, all hospitals in Germany received a flat rate for hospital beds that the hospitals kept free for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

    As a key measure, it was agreed that the compensation payments for loss of income, which expired at the end of September last year, would be continued. The federal states then designated hospitals that received compensation payments for hospital beds that were empty due to postponed interventions.

    Fraud is also alleged to have taken place in connection with funds for new intensive care beds. A group of lawyers, public prosecutors and a judge have filed criminal charges against two large German hospitals in the Saarland area.

    In the current second wave of the pandemic, only hospitals that offer emergency care and located in a region with a high incidence of infection could still receive refunds. This was determined by the local authorities.

    Specifically, in areas with a 7-day incidence of over 70, in which there is less than 25 percent free operable intensive care capacity, money flowed freely. Since the end of November 2020, German clinics have been able to collect funds if the Corona incidence figure was more than 70 patients. In this way, a hospital with 600 beds could for example collect up to 50 000 euros per day.

    The lawyers said: “The criminal complaint highlights how these institutions have benefited economically from the Corona crisis in a way that is relevant under criminal law”.

    Eye clinics also collected money

    The money was paid for all free beds in a hospital, not only for intensive care beds. Last June, the Tagesschau reported that “all kinds of hospitals had received large sums of money as retention fees”. Among them were also “specialised hospitals such as pure eye clinics”, which “would never have treated a Covid patient”.

    The German daily went on to write: “A 600-bed hospital could easily collect 50 000 euros per day in this way. Most recently, according to the Central Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds, every second hospital, 977 clinics to be exact, received money through these flat rates.”

    In the case of the two hospitals alone, against which criminal charges have now been filed, the amount involved is said to be 18 million euros, according to the lawyers. The complaint goes on to say that not only the clinics are affected: “Only in cooperation with DIVI, RKI and BMG can the allocation of funds, practically at the call of the clinics, be understood.”

    The lawyers assume that “the possibility of fraudulent behaviour on the part of the clinics was accepted here with obvious collusion”.

    The lawyers who filed criminal charges against the Saarbrücken clinics assume that the two cases reported are only the tip of the iceberg. “The facts of the case should be made public, as the clinics involved here are only two of about 100 clinics that have acted in the same way,” according to the lawyers.

    They fear the “possible waste of a billion-dollar sum”. The public prosecutor’s office in charge did not want to give any information on the state of the investigation. Public prosecutor Dominik Degel told the Berliner Zeitung in response to a question that “for reasons of procedural protection, no information can be given at present”.

    Meanwhile, the public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig has confirmed that it has opened an investigation on suspicion of subsidy fraud.

    The background may involve “wrongfully received payments for Corona beds kept free”, reported the business daily Wirtschaftswoche.

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