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Giving recovery a head start

Interview with Enrico Ukrow, Managing Director of Kliniken Beelitz GmbH

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Kliniken Beelitz comprises three clinics: A first stage rehabilitation clinic with 133 beds, a second stage rehabilitation center with 85 beds, and an 83-bed clinic which specializes in Parkinson’s disease.

“We specialize in neurology, and treat the entire spectrum of neurological conditions,” explains Enrico Ukrow, who is Managing Director for all three establishments. “We operate both acute and specialist clinics. Stroke patients, for example, or someone who has had an accident and needs ventilation, are initially treated in a conventional hospital. After seven to ten days, they come to us for therapy in the early rehabilitation center. Patients who can’t be successfully treated in first stage rehab are automatically transferred to second stage rehab for further therapy for a period of up to 40 days.”

In terms of turnover and personnel numbers, the first stage rehab clinic is Kliniken Beelitz’s most important area. It is the ‘feeder’ to the second stage center. The Parkinson’s clinic serves a niche area of neurological disease, and Kliniken Beelitz boasts some of the leading specialists in this field.

Patients for both rehab clinics are drawn from the local regions of Potsdam, Berlin and Brandenburg. Parkinson’s patients, in contrast, come from all over Germany. “Our Parkinson’s clinic is highly specialized, and we have gained a very strong reputation across the country,” Mr. Ukrow points out. “As a result, we attract patients from every corner of Germany.”

Parkinson’s disease generally strikes in middle age or later – and therefore the clinic’s patients are usually over the age of 60 although, of course, there are exceptions, and younger patients can also be affected. Other illnesses and accidents, however, do not discriminate by age, and the rehab clinics treat patients in every life stage. “Anyone, at any age, can suffer a stroke, just as they can have a motorbike or car accident,” Mr. Ukrow underlines.

Our highly specialized Parkinson’s clinic attracts patients from every corner of Germany. Enrico UkrowManaging Director
Enrico Ukrow

Kliniken Beelitz belongs to the Recura Group; Recura owns a number of clinics and care centers in Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony, which specialize in a range of different medical disciplines. In addition, the group operates a vocational training center, geared to developing the next generation of personnel.

ecura is owned by a number of private investors. Kliniken Beelitz employs a total of 750 highly trained and motivated staff. The lack of qualified nursing and care personnel is a well-recognized issue that affects not only Germany, but also many other countries across Europe.

One of the key issues is the lack of recognition and respect for the work involved in the care profession. The theme of personnel is one that is very close to Mr. Ukrow’s heart. “Nursing and care staff have my absolute respect,” he says. “Not everyone can do this job. You need to have good level of empathy, and be capable of dealing with both patients and their relatives. I would like to see a significant improvement in the value placed on this profession.”

Another current theme is, of course, the corona virus. What impact has it had on the Kliniken Beelitz? “We were very well prepared,” the Managing Director emphasizes. “The government’s plan was, that specialist clinics would take overspill patients when the acute hospitals were full, and we built isolation wards in readiness; luckily though, we haven’t had to take any corona patients, and only two of our own patients were infected – these were quickly transferred to acute hospitals. We operate very strict hygiene measures, and also undertake extensive testing of both patients and personnel. Our ventilation and monitoring capacities have been significantly increased, which will be crucial should the predicted second wave strike. Regular discussions on this theme ensure that we are ready for any eventuality.”

With its well-equipped facilities, and expert medical personnel, Kliniken Beelitz sits in the top level of the White List – Germany’s official clinic ranking – making it one of the leading establishments in the country. “Prof. Dr. Ebersbach, our leading professor, has a very strong international reputation,” the Managing Director underlines. As a specialist clinic, it is important that Kliniken Beelitz is equipped with the latest medical technology.

“We have many ideas, and there are numerous start-ups in Berlin which develop innovative solutions. We had begun various cooperations, but unfortunately, due to corona, this plan has been put on ice for the time being. Nevertheless, it is something we want to continue in the future,” says Mr. Ukrow.

Speaking of the future, what are the clinic’s key areas of focus? One theme is the personnel sub-regulation, which comes into force in 2021, and will determine the ratio of nursing staff per bed. “This means that if there are not enough staff, you can’t use all the beds,” Mr. Ukrow points out. “However, we are well-positioned and see this as a positive strategy. We want to expand our bed capacity too, and add new medical disciplines – possibly a urology department which specifically deals with secondary diseases in neurology. Cardiology is another option, but first we have to hire the necessary specialist personnel and develop new skills.”

The corona situation has led to a rise in awareness and respect for the work of nursing staff. Nevertheless, there is more work to do. “The new level of appreciation must be maintained, and employees should be rewarded accordingly,” Mr. Ukrow sums up. “This industry has a lot of potential, and it’s a lot of fun to work in it.”