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A view from Austria

Photo: Johann Baumgartner
Photo: Johann Baumgartner

Werner Kerschbaum, Deputy Secretary General of the Austrian Red Cross, has updated information from Austria: 

- We have ongoing discussions with the government about an improved plan for long term care. The alliance of the major care organizations has developed a comprehensive paper requiring changes of the present system – improved access, harmonization of prices and quality standards and a guarantee for provision of long term care of the individual’s choice.
- In Austria there is also a widespread discussion about cancelling the compulsory military service. As a result of this, the community service (Zivildienst), including 13.000 young men, is at risk. These young people, instead of joining the army, have chosen to provide a wide array of essential and meaningful personal services. Many of them work in organizations catering to the needs of elderly and handicapped people. They have become an important pillar of our social system and many of them stay as volunteers with the organizations they worked for. The Red Cross strongly argues in public that any replacement of the present and well functioning system needs to be thoroughly planned by intergrating all stakeholders and should not be executed without evaluating a trial period.


Thoughts after the Solstrand Conference:
- How can we include The Solstrand Commitment in our strategic work? This will require change management: we want to change the image of elderly people, the way we look at and talk about old people in our societies. Watching our language is important. If we want to treat people with respect we must not talk about the elder generation as a burden, a problem, a “Tsunamy of the old”, says Werner Kerschbaum.


Use The Solstrand Commitment as the cornerstone of a “Caring Society”
1. Fight abuse of frail and elderly
2. Remove all barriers that prevent good care
3. Advocate for the needs of elderly
4. Build a positive image of elderly people
5. Support informal carers
6. Guarantee free choice of where to be cared for
7. Establish nationwide Quality Standards
8. Introduce comprehensive and needs based National Long Term Care Plans
9. Develop compassionate care
10. Fight for dignity of the frail old and dying

Contact information: Werner Kerschbaum
Deputy Secretary General of the Austrian Red Cross. He holds an MBA and PhD in Economics from the Vienna Business School. Worked in the business sector for 15 years. Within the Red Cross he holds responsibility for the following departments: ambulance and health services, Red Cross hospice, blood services, human resources, migration, training and legal services. Werner.kerschbaum@roteskreuz.at