Hospital Heal Thyself

After 13 years and €500 million in cost overruns, the new hi-tech Krankenhaus Nord will open in June, integrating and upgrading services from around the city.

That a “consciousness consultant” could be paid €95,000 to envelope the site in a positive energy field was perhaps a measure of the absurdities that have accompanied the project Krankenhaus Nord (KHN), a tale of management chaos and mission creep that has drowned out the promise of the new “flagship” hospital of Vienna’s medical system. Now euphemistically renamed Klinik Floridsdorf, the facility will accept its first patients on June 3, after 13 years and €1.34 billion – €520 million over the original estimate, according to the Krankenanstaltenverband (KAV) management group.  It is expected to be fully operational by September.  

The confusion, delays and exploding costs led to a 10-month investigation (Untersuchungskommission der Wiener Krankenhaus Nord), whose report was presented at a press conference on April 18. The conclusion was perhaps predictable: mismanagement, not politics was at fault; there was no corruption. “All the witnesses stated that there had been no political interference,” said David Ellensohn (Greens) who co-chaired the commission with Peter Florianschütz (SPÖ).  

The opposition begs to differ, and the FPÖ has filed a minority report.  The ÖVP and NEOs – accepting neither – will be filing separate memoranda.  Debate will begin in Parliament April 30.

So what happened? One of the problems was the management structure, leaving the so-called General Director Udo Janßen primarily responsible for the long-term system planning, the “Spitalkonzepts 2030”; thus he delegated the management of KHN to his No. 2, Thomas Balasz, who was already heavily committed at the KAV.  “The structure was not functional,” admitted Florian Schütz.

Still, most thought KAV-chief Wilhelm Marhold would be able to keep things on track – until he had to withdraw for health reasons at the end of 2013, as did the next level project manager, for family reasons.  In 2014, the company hired to build the façade filed for bankruptcy. “That was just bad luck,” said Ellensohn. It didn’t help that the city gave out 250 individual contracts instead of one general one – originally planned as a consortium of the companies Porr, Siemens and Vamed. “The European Investment Bank was also in favor” of this model, claimed former Mayor Michael Häupl (Der Standard), a position the bank later denied. “The EIB at no point required that the City of Vienna break off with the consortium,” the bank stated. Ellensohn’s comment: “The evening is wiser than the morning.”

Various departments will begin moving in by the end of May, including the complete operations of the existing Krankenhaus Floridsdorf, the Orthopädisches Spital Gersthof, and the Semmelweis Frauenklinik. In addition, divisions from the Otto-Wagner Spital, the Krankenhaus Hietzing, the pediatric section of the Rudolfsstiftung and the Wilhelminenspital, as well as the trauma surgery ward from the Donauspital are en route. During the transition weeks, supplementary critical-care services will be offered at other hospitals.

Dardis McNamee
Dardis McNamee is the Editor in Chief of Metropole. She has written for The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler (NYC), the Wall Street Journal Europe and Die Zeit in Vienna, as well as having been a speechwriter to two U.S. ambassadors to Austria. She was awarded the 2007 Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching (Media & Communications).

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