Rudolf Anschober Resigns as Health Minister, Citing Exhaustion

After 15 months leading Austria’s response to the pandemic, the widely respected leader stepped down on April 13.

Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober resigned on Tuesday, April 13, citing extreme fatigue and his own health as the main reasons for his decision. “I am overworked and exhausted,” the former schoolteacher confessed. On the advice of his doctor, he is leaving his position after 15 months, which he said, “felt more like 15 years.”

Since the new coalition took office in January, 2020, Anschober has held one of the most demanding jobs in the country, enduring long hours, relentless decision-making and heavy criticism. After a second bout of sick leave in March, speculation was widespread about the minister’s possible resignation.  

“The Republic needs a health minister who is in perfect shape during the most challenging health crisis in decades,” Anschober elaborated, adding that while he was responsible for the health of the Austrian people, he also needed to attend to his own wellbeing. 

Anschober was one of the longest serving members of the Green Party, having been first elected to parliament just four years after the party’s founding in 1986. In 2003, he became a cabinet member in Upper Austria, the first time the Greens participated in that state’s administration.  

During his time as Health Minister, he introduced 106 new policies and “many, many decrees.” He did his best to work out in consensus agreements with both the opposition and the Greens’ conservative coalition partner (ÖVP), as well as with other countries, all of which happened under enormous “time pressure.” 

“Yes, there have been quite a few struggles,” he conceded, citing populism and party tactics as considerable issues during his tenure. The months of strain had taken a toll on Anschober’s physical well being, leading to two circulatory collapses in a span of one month, he said Tuesday in a statement. “The pandemic has changed all our lives,” he said, but he had tried to “give it his all” and had worked tirelessly to stem the outbreak – “pretty much nonstop” for the last 14 months – pushing well past his limits. He noted that he is currently dealing with high blood pressure, circulation problems, tinnitus, and blood sugar issues. 

Mückstein Brings Experience

He is to be replaced as of April 19 by Dr. Wolfgang Mückstein, a general practitioner long active in the Green Party and since 2019, special advisor for health and social policy. In recent months he has played a key role supporting Anschober in the rollout of the country’s successful testing strategy. In the interim, his duties will be assumed by Vice-Chancellor and Green Party leader Werner Kogler, until Mückstein’s formal swearing in on Monday.

President Alexander Van der Bellen thanked Anschober in the name of the Republic for his “untiring work” in these immeasurably difficult times and wished him a speedy recovery. 

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz extended similar wishes and thanked the outgoing minister for his service during the pandemic, adding that his resignation demonstrated the impact of COVID pandemic not only on individual citizens, but also those in leadership positions, who are on call day and night and have to make difficult decisions. 

His public relations officer, Margit Draxl, shared Anschober’s farewell with his staff via Twitter and thanked him on behalf of all his colleagues. 

Anschober stated that starting next week, his priority will be regaining his full health, adding that he has no concrete plans for after he recovers. There was however one project that had long been on his mind:  

“Yes, one day I want to fulfill my dream of writing a political novel,” he revealed. He certainly has no shortage of inspiration. 

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Bogdan Brkić
Originally from southern Serbia, he moved to Vienna in 2013 to study German Philology. He is an aspiring journalist whose passions include history, music and French pastries.

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