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Swiss hospital responds to right-to-die patients

A hospital in the canton of Valais could allow assisted suicide within its walls “in exceptional circumstances”, it has announced.

Swiss hospital responds to right-to-die patients
Photo: Valais Hospital

Assisted dying is legal in Switzerland, though usually takes place in dedicated facilities such as Dignitas.

But the Sion branch of Valais Hospital has issued a directive to its medical staff allowing them to “give an appropriate response to the patient on this delicate matter”, its director Eric Bonvin said in a statement.

The move means a patient wishing to die can request help from Exit or another assisted dying organization within hospital walls “in exceptional situations,” meaning the person is no longer in a physical state to be moved from hospital and there is no other way of respecting “patient autonomy”.

Such cases will be submitted to a newly established ethics committee which will assess the circumstances and support the patient in their decision.

He stressed that no medical staff would take part in the assisted suicide.

“The principal duty of the hospital remains to care for people. Assisted suicide is not considered an act of care and as such is not recognized as the work of public hospital,” he added.

Bonvin told news agency ATS that only one or two people a year requested help to die at the hospital.

However the number of assisted deaths in Switzerland as a whole has leapt recently, according to figures released earlier this week.

Over 780 people chose to end their lives with the help of Exit in 2015, nearly 200 more than the previous year, it said.

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GENEVA

Is Switzerland ‘pilfering’ health workers from France during pandemic?

Officials in the Haute-Savoie area of France have accused private Swiss health clinics of poaching essential healthcare workers.

Is Switzerland 'pilfering' health workers from France during pandemic?
Health care workers from France prefer to work on the Swiss side of the border. Photo by AFP

The headline in Switzerland's Le Temps newspaper reads: “Geneva is pilfering our nurses”.

It comes from an interview with a French MP who laments how France is losing health workers to its neighbour at the height of a health crisis.

“The behaviour of some hospital administrators in Switzerland is totally unacceptable in the context of the health crisis”, Haute-Savoie’s deputy Martial Saddier said in an interview with Le Temps newspaper. 

He was referring to a practice of Swiss clinics recruiting health workers in France which French officials like Saddier says has caused a shortage of personnel in French hospitals in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Saddier denounced several private clinics in Geneva for actively recruiting nursing staff from Haute-Savoie, luring them with salaries that are about two and a half times higher than those paid in the French region.

Though the phenomenon of medical workers from Haute-Savoie ‘migrating’ to Geneva is not new — 60 percent of nursing staff at Geneva’s university hospitals (HUG) live in France — Saddier said these recruitments should not happen during the pandemic. 

“While the number of infected people may be high in Geneva, Haute-Savoie is not spared either, with rates among the highest in France. We need all our vital forces”, he said.

Olivier Teissèdre, director of Hôpital privé Pays de Savoie (HPPS) pointed out that already during the first wave of Covid-19, “350 of our caregivers were recruited in Geneva, which put us in great difficulty. Today I lost 4 percent of my staff and had to shut down a night shift”.

“Now the shortage of caregivers is crucially felt because the care of Covid-19 patients is particularly heavy”, he added.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES: Swiss flags hang over protesting French ski village 

At the start of the second wave, the HPSS set up a partnership with another Haute-Savoie medical facility, the Alpes-Léman public hospital.

“But we no longer have enough employees to maintain this partnership because there is too much movement of staff toward Switzerland”, Teissèdre said.

At the start of the pandemic, an agreement was reached with the Geneva authorities to stop recruiting medical personnel from France, but this commitment only concerns public hospitals. No such pact was made with private clinics.

Laurent Paoliello, spokesperson for Geneva’s Health Department said that while HUG, which is a public hospital, has respected the hiring freeze, the canton can’t impose similar restrictions on recruitment policies of private establishments.

“However, we consider it inappropriate to loot the region next door, especially during a pandemic”, he said.

Although the Haute-Savoie officials say that private hospitals have placed ads in a local newspaper, Le Dauphiné libéré, seeking French health care workers, Geneva’s clinics deny advertising in France.

“We only recruit through our site, or on Jobup.ch, as well as on social networks”, said Magali Dauwalder, spokesperson for the Hirslanden group of private hospitals, which manages La Colline et les Grangettes clinics in Geneva.


READ MORE: Switzerland rejects further coronavirus lockdown despite 'worrying' situation 

 

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