Austrian doctors want to charge cancellation fees for no-show patients

Patients who miss their appointments without calling to cancel beforehand should have to pay up to a €75 fee, says the Austrian Medical Association (ÖÄK).

Doctor speaking on the phone
Healthcare costs are rising in Austria, with medical assistance and medicine costs all having gone up. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

The ÖÄK is calling on its member doctors to begin charging a no-show fee to help prevent medicine as a “precious resource” from being “wasted” during a time when Austria is short of doctors.

ÖÄK points out that the shortage is making it increasingly harder for patients to get appointments and that doctors cannot get missed appointments reimbursed by public insurance funds.

Some ÖÄK doctors report that anywhere between ten to 15 percent of their appointments are no-shows on any given day, creating a big enough knock-on effect for other patients and for the system as a whole.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can doctors charge a cancellation fee in Austria?

The association’s proposal would see patients who don’t show up for their scheduled appointments without cancelling beforehand charged between €40 and €75.

Patients who cannot notify their doctor in good time but for a valid reason, such as an unavoidable family emergency – would have this penalty waived.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

The ÖÄK’s call is simply a guideline recommendation, meaning that each individual practice can decide whether or not they will do it. Some already do.

Each practice is also able to decide what the precise penalty fee is and how long in advance patients have to call in advance to cancel their appointments without being penalized. Some require 24 hours’ notice while others allow same-day cancellation.

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What are Austria’s new Covid and RSV vaccine recommendations?

From fresh recommendations for Covid-19 jabs to a new vaccination for the RSV respiratory virus, here's what you need to know about vaccination guidelines in Austria for the autumn and winter months.

What are Austria's new Covid and RSV vaccine recommendations?

Cases of Covid-19 have been rising in recent weeks with the discovery of a new variant, and the World Health Organisation has recommended that governments make efforts to ensure their populations are up to date with vaccines.

Now the Austrian government has issued new vaccination guidelines.These concern protection against illnesses including Covid-19 and a brand new vaccination for Respiratory syncytial virus, which affects the lungs and breathing passages, commonly known as RSV. 

“In the past few weeks, the National Vaccination Committee has been intensively preparing to update the vaccination plan,” said the Austrian Health Ministry.

“New scientific findings were discussed as well as the recommendations of the European health authorities. This includes not only new recommendations for the corona vaccination, but also for vaccinations against RSV, meningococci and hepatitis A.”

READER QUESTION: Where can I get tested for Covid-19 in Austria?

The plans are still to be published in full, but here’s what we know so far.

What’s new when it comes to Covid vaccinations?

Austria’s National Vaccination Committee (NIG) has adapted its Covid-19 advice for residents living in Austria. 

The NIG says that unvaccinated people will be protected with one jab against Covid-19, with the most up-to-date vaccines. Previously up to three doses were recommended for basic immunisation. 

Meanwhile, the committee said that one top-up jab, particularly for older people and at-risk groups, was sufficient for protection this autumn and winter.

Pfizer and Moderna have both developed new vaccines which target the most recent strains of the Covid virus, known as XBB.1.5, and the European Medicines Agency approved these for use within the EU on August 30th.

The adapted vaccine is expected to be released in Austria this week. 

Why is only one injection needed when more were recommended previously?

Experts say that the population has built up strong immunity against coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

“The immunity of the population enables a new vaccination recommendation,” said the Austrian Health Ministry. 

“For the best possible protection against a severe course of the disease from Covid-19, one vaccination in the coming autumn is sufficient – regardless of whether basic immunisation has already been carried out,” said the Health Ministry.

“In line with the recommendations of the European health authorities, it can be assumed that previously unvaccinated people will also be adequately protected by a single vaccination with the new variant vaccines.”

A Covid-19 vaccination and test center in Austria.

A Covid-19 vaccination and test centre in Austria during the pandemic. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Health Minister Johannes Rauch added: “Even if we have largely left the corona pandemic behind us, the virus is still there.

“After three years of the pandemic, however, the framework conditions have changed significantly: immunity is significantly higher, vaccines and Covid-19 drugs are available to us. It is still the case that vaccination is the best protection. From serious illnesses and from Long Covid.”

Experts urged people to speak to their GPs to get advice.

Katharina Reich, Austria’s Director General for Public Health, said: “With the existing immunity within the population, one vaccination will in future be sufficient for effective protection against serious illnesses.

“I recommend everyone to get information from their doctor in good time.”

Who should get a top-up Covid vaccination?

Austria’s National Vaccination Committee recommends that everyone over the age of 12 receive a jab in autumn with the updated vaccines. 

Vaccination is particularly recommended for people over the age of 60, people who are at increased risk of developing severe illness with Covid and health workers.

Babies can also get the vaccination after a consultation with a doctor. 

Vaccines in Austria are available from many doctors as well as public vaccination points. 

Vaccine against RSV available for the first time

This year, for the first time, the European Commission has approved two vaccines for RSV for adults.

Austria’s National Vaccination Panel recommends vaccinations against RSV for adults aged 60 and older.

To date, there has been no jab to protect against lower respiratory tract infections caused by RSV. The vaccines are expected in Austria in the coming weeks.

“Last autumn we clearly saw that not only corona, but also RSV and influenza cause many serious diseases that can overload Austrian hospitals,” said Health Minister Rauch. “I am therefore particularly pleased that we will have vaccines available for all three serious respiratory diseases for the first time this fall.”

When it comes to Influenza (flu), people in Austria can get a top-up jab every autumn/winter, with many adults paying a fee for it. Arrange a consultation with your doctor to see if any vaccinations are recommended to you. 

The National Vaccination Committee has also updated the previous recommendations for vaccinations against meningococci and hepatitis A.

Vaccination against hepatitis A is no longer generally recommended, instead it is only recommend only under certain conditions, such as for travel.

Meanwhile, in future vaccination against meningococci ACWY will also be recommended from the age of one, replacing the vaccination against meningococci C.