At first it was supposed to stay, but now it has become clear: the delivery room in Neuperlach is likely to be closed – as early as next summer. The coalition in the city council had decided to keep the delivery room until at least 2028. But now the Munich Clinic (Mük), the municipal hospital company to which the Neuperlach Clinic belongs, says that maintaining obstetric care in Neuperlach is no longer possible.

The reason is the new clinic being built in Harlaching, where a large obstetrics and gynecology department is planned. As soon as the new building is ready for occupancy, there will no longer be any births in Neuperlach, said the managing director of Mük when he recently presented the new medical concept for the entire company. This includes, among other things, the relocation of the delivery room from Neuperlach to Harlaching.

Mük plans to open the new building in mid-2025 – and refers to the legal framework: “With the commissioning of the new building in Harlaching, the approval for the operation of obstetrics in Neuperlach will expire in the Bavarian hospital plan.”

This does not appease the midwives from Neuperlach who are affected. “We are even angrier than before,” says Leonie Lieb, one of the Neuperlach midwives who are fighting to keep the delivery room. Suddenly the argument about the approval came up, and before that it had never been conveyed to them in such clarity, criticizes the midwife.

The colleagues feel they have been let down by the governing parties. “How can it be that they promise us something and then backtrack?” In fact, both the Green/Rosa Liste and SPD/Volt factions, which form the majority in the city council, reacted at the beginning of last year – after the midwives had collected around 23,500 signatures in a petition calling for it to be preserved. This was followed by promises and resolutions from the parties to maintain maternity care in Neuperlach, at least until 2028. But the city hall coalition apparently did not take the hospital plan into account.

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For the chairwoman of the Mük works council, Ingrid Greif, the case of the Neuperlach midwives is a “big stomachache story”. Politicians have promised too much, she says. Now it’s about making the process of moving to Harlaching as smooth as possible.

However, the midwives do not want to give up and continue to demand that their location be retained. In an open letter, they recently addressed how important the delivery room is in the district. The women and families in eastern Munich would have to expect a “clearly noticeable gap in gynecological and obstetric care,” they say, if their department closes. In addition, the planned merger threatens the employment of 25 midwives in the delivery room. They do not want to be forced into independence.

In Harlaching, the midwives work freelance in the so-called billing system, which means they are self-employed and bill their work directly to the statutory health insurance companies. In Neuperlach, on the other hand, the midwives are regular employees of the Mük – so they earn a little less than freelancers, but benefit from employee rights such as paid sick days or working time regulations.

“Very challenging for the organization of a hospital”

So now there is a new promise on the table: This time, politicians and the Munich Clinic have promised the Neuperlach midwives that they will find a way for both groups – freelancers and employees – to work together in a hybrid model in the new building in Harlaching. However, it is still unclear how this will work. According to the German Midwives Association, there is still no delivery room in Germany where both working models can successfully coexist permanently.

“I know of attempts that failed after a short time in everyday life,” says Andrea Köbke, advisor for the employee sector at the Midwives’ Association. The difficulty is that the services of freelance and employed midwives cannot be billed together – that is, two midwives from the two different systems cannot, for example, attend the same birth. As a result, two teams that operate completely separately would have to be created, says Köbke. “This is very challenging for the organization of a hospital.”

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In Munich, people are optimistic: “Of course, a good solution must be found for the midwives in Neuperlach,” says Beatrix Zurek (SPD), the health officer for the city of Munich. They want to develop a hybrid system together at the new location. “I’m looking forward to this very positively.”

Angelika Pilz-Strasser, a Green Party city councilor and doctor as well as a member of the Mük supervisory board, also says that they now need to “work hard on a hybrid system for Harlaching.” “The hospital management has an active role to play here and should do everything to ensure that the midwives from Neuperlach find good working conditions in Harlaching.” The hospital management says that permanent employment is guaranteed for the Neuperlach midwives, depending on their individual wishes. A spokesperson says that they are in contact with the midwives on this matter.

An analysis by the Health Department is intended to justify the move

So is the move already sealed? The SPD/Volt faction, which also has the head of the Mük supervisory board, Mayor Dieter Reiter, is holding back on making any final statements. Even after the supervisory board approved the medical concept, faction leader Anne Hübner is still talking about a merely “possible move” to Harlaching. All open questions are currently being investigated. “There are still six weeks until the city council makes a decision. There is therefore no need to make hasty decisions before all ongoing discussions have been concluded,” said Hübner.

But apparently there is a needs analysis from the health department that is supposed to prove that the move of obstetrics from Neuperlach to Harlaching will not leave a big gap. The concentration on Harlaching is in line with this analysis, says the Mük. Health officer Zurek also refers to the same analysis when she says that “nothing can be said against a permanent relocation to Harlaching”.

However, the needs analysis has not yet been published. It is currently being voted on citywide, the Health Department (GSR) said in response to a query. However, the GSR has not revealed when the vote will take place. The factions are also not yet aware of it – both Angelika Pilz-Strasser from the Greens and Stefan Jagel, vice-chair of the Left/The Party faction, are demanding to see the document. “Clarity is finally needed” about the obstetric capacities in the city, said Jagel.