When I’m not thinking about what else we can do at work to survive, I sometimes wonder what went wrong in this crisis. Well, everyone knows that epidemics and pandemics do visit us from time to time. How come we were caught off guard so brutally and so unprepared?
When my son, Benjamin, was in hospital for several weeks in October 2018, I was able to experience our health system. Not through glossy brochures, but by a nurse who had to look after 18 rooms with two patients each during the night shift all by herself. So some people had to wait on the toilet bowl a little longer until someone came to clean their butts … Many nurses and caregivers were in the ward until late in the evening and also the next day early in the morning (with a break for sleep, I hope). There were also rush hours – when the helicopter repeatedly flew in motorcyclists who had been involved in accidents on weekends.
Every day, I wondered what would happen if a major catastrophe were to happen, if within a short time hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of patients were to suddenly need quick and thorough medical care because it was a matter of life and death. As is the case now in our corona pandemic …
As a born-and-bred Swabian, I’m already firmly in favor of saving money. But certainly not for ruinous cost-cutting that will cut our future … It’s shameful how badly we pay people to operate on us or clean our behinds. Surely, we cannot expect this to be done out of pure charity and helpfulness – although this is the case – without paying the people who accomplish such a Herculean task a proper living wage. It’s indecent, it’s unfair and, as you can see now, it’s plain stupid. This little virus will probably cost us 1, 2 or even 3 trillion euro worldwide. But actually it is not the virus that is causing this damage, but the short-sightedness of those who are entrusted with taking care that an epidemic or pandemic does not immediately throw the whole world completely off balance.
Now, in the greatest need, ventilators are being produced hectically, additional beds are being put together, and gyms, sports facilities, exhibition halls and city parks are hastily being converted into hospitals and morgues. If a fraction of the large sums of money that now have to be spent on, among other things, face masks and protective suits at exorbitant prices had been invested beforehand and in good time for proper prevention, for alert systems and for worldwide emergency measures, we would certainly have lost fewer people, experienced less suffering and endured fewer deaths. Slash costs to cut the future. In both human and economic terms, a catastrophe. Together with our friends and business partners in Greece, we are currently helping with our products to keep and get emergency vehicles ready for action. After a decade of rigorous austerity, much of what is happening in that country is no longer working properly – to the detriment of the people … mostly the poor and those who are already disadvantaged.
A few functions and institutions, on which we humans depend and which we urgently need for survival, should not be left to private-sector optimization artists, slash-and-burn controllers and extreme penny-pinchers, and certainly not to profit-hungry price gougers who earn heaps of money with the sickness and misery of other people. I love the free market economy. But in providing a healthcare system that should also be well prepared to cope with disasters and crises, classic entrepreneurship is clearly unsuitable. The situation calls for an entity that is completely and exclusively committed to the common good of all the people. And that is the state. It can only be the state. Who else can guarantee the health and integrity of 82 million people [in Germany] and at the same time ensure that the people who carry out this task are decently, fairly and adequately paid at all times?