Despite an agreement reached between doctors and health insurance companies about an increase in fees, many doctors' offices across Germany plan to close as part of nationwide strikes.
As many as 80,000 doctors are expected to take part in Wednesday's strikes. For Germans hoping to see a doctor, the strikes could mean closed clinics or waiting times that are longer than usual.
On Tuesday evening, progress seemed to be made in negotiations that have gone on for weeks between Germany's public health insurance companies and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (Kassenärtzliche Bundesvereinigung, KBV). The deal reached saw the fees received by Germany's 150,000 private practice doctors from the insurance companies for patient services increase by 1.15 - 1.27 billion euros ($1.48-$1.63 billion). The exact amount is subject to further negotiation and will differ regionally.
However, doctors' unions that were not part of the negotiations believe this does not address the central problem facing Germany's private practice doctors and have therefore called for Wednesday's strikes to continue as planned.
"This agreement cannot hide the fact that the basic problems - a lack of fixed prices and services by doctors and psychotherapists that go unpaid - are still unsolved," said Dirk Heinrich, spokesman for the Alliance of German Doctors' Unions.
In Germany, doctors receive flat fees for services rendered to patients with public health insurance. Doctors have more leeway with fees they charge to patients who are covered by private health insurance.
German Health Minister Daniel Bahr criticized the fact that the negotiations have been drawn out for so long.
"The negotiations in the past few weeks haven't exactly been pretty," he said.
In August, doctors and insurance companies had agreed to a rise in fees of 270 million euros. The doctors were originally calling for an increase of 3.5 billion euros.
mz/kms (Reuters, dapd, dpa)