Health care

Austria

Country Report: Health care Last updated: 08/04/21

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Asylkoordination Österreich Visit Website

The initial medical examination of asylum seekers after their initial admission to a reception centre (EAST or VQ) is usually conducted within 24 hours. A general examination is conducted through a physical examination including vital signs, skin lesion, injuries, including Tuberculosis (TBC) X-ray and questions on their state of health by means of a standardised medical history. If, within the scope of the medical examination, circumstances indicate that further investigations are required, asylum seekers are transferred to specialist doctors or a hospital.[1]

Every asylum seeker who receives Basic Care has health insurance. Treatment that is not covered by health insurance may be paid, upon request, by the federal provinces’ departments for Basic Care or the Ministry of Interior. If Basic Care is withdrawn, asylum seekers are still entitled to emergency care and essential treatment.[2]

In practice, this provision is not always easy to apply, however. If an asylum seeker has lost basic care due to violent behaviour or absence from the EAST for more than two days, he or he will not receive medical assistance, because it is assumed that they have had the opportunity to visit the medical station in the EAST. However, as those asylum seekers are no longer registered in the EAST, they will not be allowed to enter and receive medical treatment there. Without health insurance or access to the medical station of the EAST, asylum seekers may face severe difficulties in receiving necessary medical treatment. Some of them come to the NGO-run health project AMBER MED with doctors providing treatment on a voluntary basis.[3]

In some federal provinces such as Vienna, asylum seekers receive an insurance card in the same way as other insured persons and can thus access health care with their insurance contracts without complications. In others provinces such as Styria or Salzburg, they must first request a replacement document in order to visit doctors.

After the asylum seeker has submitted the asylum application, he or she must undergo a mandatory medical examination, including a tuberculosis examination. The Ministry of the Interior has commissioned the Swiss company ORS to carry out the medical examination, which is part of the admission procedure. The company has contracts with general practitioners and nurses to provide health care in the federal reception centres.

Asylum seekers are obliged to submit medical findings and expert opinions, if those help to assess the presence of a mental disorder or other special needs (§ 2 Abs. 1 GVG-B).[4]

Since September 2018, hospitals have the obligation to inform the BFA of the upcoming release of a foreigner against whom a deportation procedure is pending. This is not mandatory but happens upon requests of the BFA. However, once such a request has been issued, hospitals are obliged to keep the BFA updated of relevant developments (e.g. if there a change in the release date for example). The police may further also be informed on the matter by the BFA upon explicit request. [5]

The Austrian Integration Fonds (Integrationsfonds) took some time before providing information on the Covid-19-pandemic to refugees and asylum seekers. In April 2020, the Integrationsfond sent short messages via mobile phones to inform refugees and asylum seekers about the Corona pandemic and the legal situation. Critics were raised as the information was at times incorrect and incomplete; e.g. he Integrationsfonds did not inform the concerned persons about their right to go for a walk during the lockdown.[6] It took the Integrationsfonds up until January 2021 to establish Online Counselling for persons with low German skills. Through this counselling service, the Integrationsfonds aims to inform interested persons about the possibility to get tested and/or vaccinated.[7] In the Austrian vaccination strategy, asylum seekers accommodated in larger facilities are categorised as Priority group number 3 together with person over 70 years old. At the time of writing of this report (March 2021), this group has not been targeted in the vaccination efforts yet.[8]

Specialised treatment

In each federal province, one NGO part of the Network for Intercultural Psychotherapy and Extreme Trauma provides treatment to victims of torture and traumatised asylum seekers. This is partly covered by AMIF funding, partly by the Ministry of Interior and regional medical insurance. However, the capacity of these services is not sufficient. Victims often have to wait for more than 6 months in Vienna, Styria and Tyriol for psychotherapy, while in other federal states they wait approximately 3 months.

The Basic Care system – and thus the health care provided – varies from one federal province to another and is regulated in many different laws on state level. In some federal provinces, asylum seekers will be provided care in regular special care facilities (see Special Reception Needs). “Increased care” for special needs must however be requested by the asylum seeker. A prerequisite for receiving additional care is the submission of up-to-date specialist medical findings and assessments demonstrating a need for care, as well as social reports not older than 3 months. These requirements contribute to the asylum seeker’s obligation to cooperate throughout the procedure. Reports from NGOs are also taken into account when examining the additional need for care.

 

 

[1]   Ministry of Interior, Reply to parliamentary question 8774/J (XXV.GP), 17 May 2016, available in German at: http://bit.ly/2lq2GHj.

[2] Article 2(4) GVG-B.

[3]  See the official website AmberMed available in German at: http://www.amber-med.at/.

[4]  Article 15 (1)3 Asylum Law.

[5]  § 46 (7) Aliens police Law 2005.

[6]  Der Standard, „Integrationsfonds informierte Migranten unvollständig über Corona-Maßnahmen“, 16 April 2020, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3f3TPJg.

[7]  Integrationsfonds, “Informationen zu Impfungen und Testungen: mehrmals täglich COVID-19-Onlineberatungen für Migrant/innen und Flüchtlinge”, 14 January 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3ttXRii.

[8] Federal Health Ministery, „Empfehlung des Nationalen Impfgremiums zur Priorisierung von Covid-19-Impfungen“, December 2020, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3bZb38O.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation