ENorbert Schmidt actually counts himself among the fearless. He's a radiologist. But as a practice operator, he is also an entrepreneur. As such, he bears a high financial risk and responsibility for his employees. For him, dealing with numbers is just as important as dealing with patients. But Schmidt, chairman of the Hessian state association of radiologists, has not yet dared to calculate the electricity costs for his practice for the next year with the prices currently being advertised. For his last extrapolation, he used the tariffs called up by his electricity provider in January as a basis - and sounded the alarm even then.
According to the radiologist, he should have budgeted 30,000 euros more than in the previous year for the power supply alone. And that with a consumption that costs him a low six-digit sum anyway. "It's no small thing," he says almost resignedly. For the coming year, when the contract with his electricity provider expires, the radiologist expects the burden to be much higher.
MRI scanners as power guzzlers
"It hits us radiologists particularly hard due to the high energy consumption," says Schmidt. Because computer and magnetic resonance tomographs are real power guzzlers. He says that energy suppliers have not offered special tariffs in recent years, such as those received by industrial customers who report comparable electricity consumption. The radiologists count as freelancers and as such do not benefit from regulations that can exempt high-energy consumers from certain ancillary charges.
As nice as the word “freelancer” is, the practice operators are not free. The sums that can be billed to the health insurance companies are fixed and are renegotiated annually between the Central Association of Health Insurance Companies (GKV) and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV). As a result, practice operators cannot simply pass on the increasing electricity costs to patients. But Schmidt remains an entrepreneur. He has to make sure that he is at least covering his costs. So why not just switch off the power-guzzling devices? The radiologist laughs, but doesn't sound happy. "That's no use." And it's also not allowed. As a radiologist, he, like practice operators in other disciplines, is paid to provide certain services. Failure to do so could result in contractual penalties.
Basic services must also be maintained in times of crisis
In addition, says Schmidt, with highly complex devices such as a magnetic resonance tomograph, also known as a magnetic resonance tomograph (MRI), you cannot simply press the "off" button. The cooling of the device must be maintained permanently. Liquid helium is used for this. If the cooling fails, the magnetic field collapses too. Costs of up to 40,000 euros are due to be able to put the device back into operation. Switching off might be less economical than enduring the price increases. Quite apart from the responsibility towards the patients. "We can't save by only offering half an examination," says Schmidt, who would like a surcharge for energy consumption for practices like his. “I won't deny that radiologists have had high revenues. But we also bear high costs and a high risk.”