Katharina H.* from Duisburg had to be hospitalized three times within a year with one of her two children. Each time, the clinic staff turned the children away.
With reference to the corona protection measures, children are not allowed to enter the house, the 38-year-old was told. Your last experience was only a month ago. The six-year-old daughter was admitted to the Florence Nightingale Hospital in Düsseldorf after an allergic reaction to a bee sting, and her father accompanied the girl. When Katharina H. drove to the clinic a few hours later, worried, she was not allowed in. She herself was vaccinated and tested, but she was holding her ten-month-old baby, who she couldn't leave alone.
She even offered to have the baby tested. But the security staff at the entrance refused to be talked to. Whether sibling or not: children would not have access, this violates the Corona regulations. Katharina H. still can't believe it: "The little one was only with us the whole time, what danger should it pose?"
The family decided to go to the Düsseldorf clinic to avoid such problems. Because the older daughter had already been turned away twice within a year at the nearby Sana Clinic in Duisburg. Most recently in June, when the baby came to this clinic with a suspected concussion, accompanied by the father. When Katharina H. showed up with her six-year-old big sister to visit the baby, the security guard blocked her way. She still remembers the conversation: "He said, 'You're not the problem, it's the child.' That's incredible."
Parents have similar experiences in many German clinics. They come across regulations according to which only one parent can visit their own child for one hour per day. Or that children, because it is assumed that they are not vaccinated, are only allowed to lie in the treatment room as patients with mouth and nose protection. Parents keep reporting how they got help from staff and were allowed to visit their children even though this violated Corona rules.
In some clinics, children and young people are generally not allowed as visitors, in others there is a minimum age. For example, in the St. Martinus Clinic in Langenfeld in North Rhine-Westphalia and in the Leverkusen Clinic: no access for under 18s. At the Varisano Clinic in Frankfurt am Main, children under the age of 12 are not allowed to enter the building, the same applies to the Asklepios Clinic St. Georg in Hamburg. Visitors to the Jena University Hospital may only enter from the age of 16.
In addition, in many cases there are 2G or 2G Plus rules for adult visitors - a de facto exclusion of unvaccinated people. The rules are also sometimes rigid for the patients themselves. In some clinics, such as the Helios Clinic in Munich, the FFP2 mask is mandatory in the delivery room – including for women giving birth. Unless this restricts them “strongly”. Unvaccinated fathers are also not allowed to visit the newborn in many hospitals. Conversely, there are also counter-examples, such as the St. Anna maternity clinic in Stuttgart, where siblings are just as welcome as visiting children as are grandparents.
But why do many clinics impose strict corona rules, although it has been known for a long time that a vaccination or an infection that has gone through does not protect against infection? Why is a negative test, an FFP2 mask, sufficient distance from vulnerable patient groups not sufficient, what justifies a general ban on children or adolescents under the age of 18 visiting?
Neither the Leverkusen Clinic nor the St. Martinus Hospital in Langenfeld, which stipulates this, responded to the WELT request. The Asklepios Clinic St. Georg in Hamburg explained that even before the Corona period, visitors under the age of 14 were only admitted when accompanied, so that “good experiences” had been made. The clinic explains that children under 12 are currently prohibited with the epidemiological situation. The clinic refers to the figures from the RKI: In the age group of five to 14 year olds, the incidence increased by 2 to 8 percent on September 1st. The clinic announced that it would revise its rules and extend visiting bans to under-14s.
WELT asked the ministries responsible for the health care system in the federal states whether they were aware of any rigid regulations and how they were evaluated. The federal states then referred to their current infection protection regulations.
Almost everywhere the only requirement is a simple mouth and nose protection and a test requirement, in Hesse there is not even such a requirement. However, all hygiene issues are in the hands of the hospitals anyway, and the house rules allow them to determine more extensive rules. Access restrictions are regulated by the federal states via regulations, the hospitals can tighten them again based on the pandemic situation.
The consequences such as 2G-Plus, masks for women giving birth or general bans on visits by the clinics have met with displeasure among some health ministers. From Saxony it is said that the Ministry of Social Affairs has informed the hospitals that absolute bans on visits are not permitted and that - both in regular operation and in times of crisis - "particularly sensitive to visit regulations or any restrictions" should be dealt with.
Bremen also announced that it had repeatedly appealed to the clinics that access restrictions had to be proportionate. The Bavarian Ministry of Health stated that it had called on the clinics in the past to waive the mask requirement for women giving birth. In North Rhine-Westphalia, where there are numerous bans on children visiting, the ministry is alarmed after several complaints. A restriction of the right to visit is only permissible if this is "absolutely necessary due to special circumstances", according to the ministry. It goes after each individual case and possible violation. Nevertheless, the following applies in many clinics in this federal state: children have to stay outside.
The rules call out critics. The right to visit is very important for recovery and may only be restricted in exceptional cases, it is said. However, it is counteracted by 2G and FFP2 rules, which are primarily at the expense of children and young people, says the "Party for Children, Young People and Families - Lobbyists for Children". This sees this as discrimination, and repeatedly turned to the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia. The ministry then took action and ordered hospital regulators to instruct clinics to change visiting rules. But the party also turned to the federal anti-discrimination agency. The exclusion of this age group is not justified, the "narrative of children as virus slingshots" is continued "free of evidence and facts". There was no concrete answer.
WELT asked the anti-discrimination agency how they rate the clinics’ violations of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) by excluding certain age groups. This is evasive: the visitation rules contained "some legal uncertainties," said a spokesman. It is unclear whether there is a legal transaction between visitors to a hospital and the clinic itself - which is a prerequisite for punishing discrimination. Only the civil courts can make a binding decision in individual cases. However, "any disadvantages, e.g. because of age" could be justified by factual reasons such as protection against infection in hospitals: "It therefore seems appropriate to adopt stricter regulations than in other areas of life," said the spokesman.
The German Hospital Society (DKHG) considers a middle course to be sensible. Infections in children, which very often have no symptoms and remain undetected, could mean a high risk in the hospital, said CEO Gerald Gass at the request of WELT. But visits are also important for healing. He trusts in the medical expertise of his colleagues, but: "I also wish that visit restrictions would be imposed with care and that ways would be found of how low-risk visits would still be possible."
Based on her previous experience, the mother of two Katharina H. from Duisburg doubts that a more careful solution is possible as long as there are absolute bans in some clinics, such as those for children. "You can't discuss something like that with the guards at the door. It's like before the club. If the bouncer says no one can come in with sneakers, then that's the rule.” Her family found their own solution. The siblings met in a playground that the older daughter could reach through a hedge from the clinic.
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*Full name is known to the editors