Ausstellung: Brigitte Heinisch (EN)

Brigitte Heinisch

   former nurse for the elderly (Berlin)  

If elderly nursing home residents are lying in their excrement until the afternoon, than I’m calling that inhumane. If the management orders in its official reports for internal reasons, that only the minimum of personal hygiene is possible to realize, and that the personnel shortage should not be mentioned, then I’m calling it deception or forgery of documents. If an organization takes money for a performance like that, and have only the intention to build up a profitable business out of old people’s homes, than I’m calling it fraud, especially if the problems have been pointed out and nothing has been done to remedy them.

This opinion is represented by Brigitte Heinisch. Fraud is a crime. This means: If the employer, in this case “Vivantes – Netzwerk für Gesundheit GmbH” – in Berlin is not reacting to advice or warnings, then you have to contact the public prosecutor.

This is a matter of morality. In 2001 the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) decided, that the employees can report their employers, if criminal or suspicious incidents happen inside (Az: 1 BvR 2049/00), without getting a notice of dismissal by the employers.

Brigitte Heinisch’s lawyer made clear to the Vivantes GmhH, that his client would otherwise have to make a personal accusation, and that in this case that not only would the public prosecutor start an investigation, but lot’s of public discussions would start, on the subject of the unacceptable conditions.

The Health-Concern Vivantes was unimpressed. “The accusation about insufficient and inadequate care …. is a slandering claim… against her colleagues.” (So the report of the Concern to the lawyer). Now the usual vicious game starts: mobbing against Mrs. Heinisch, and the split amongst colleagues who are played off against one another. Colleagues are prohibited by the management from talking or phoning with Mrs. Heinisch. Meanwhile she has become ill.

The inhumane conditions, that she can’t change by herself
The ignorance of her employer in regard to her notes about the understaffing
The obvious indifference of her employer to the welfare of the home residents
The inner conflict between a personal accusation or a criminal charge against her own employer

Caused her a lot of stress.

Because the Health-Concern was not willing to take the criticism seriously, Brigitte Heinisch reported her employer with the help of her lawyer. While the public prosecutors weren’t able to prove a fraud after a month, they closed the investigations This was an ideal opportunity for Vivantes to get a rid of Brigitte Heinisch. So she received a notice of dismissal from the 31st March 2005.

Colleagues and friends formed a solidarity group. Now, the notice of dismissal was not the most important thing, but trying to mobilize the public, to inform them about the “daily madness inside our nursing homes”, and in particular “the madness of the daily work overload and the physical and mental health consequences for employees.” Now, the discussion is all about more humanity in our heath-support in Berlin. And because that the works council did not accept the notice of dismissal, Vivantes dismissed the nurse again. This time instantly.

Now the media was informed: The first judgement of the Arbeitsgericht (Local Labour Court) was positive for Mrs. Heinisch.

But the appeal of Vivantes at the Landesarbeitsgericht (County Labour Court) (Second Instance) in March 2006 reversed the decision: while Mrs. Heinisch “wasn’t able to prove her accusations”. These accusations were a “huge violation of her loyalty”, further employment is “not reasonable for the employer”. A second appeal before the „Bundesarbeitsgericht“ (Federal Labour Court) wasn’t allowed. Only four weeks later the MDK (the health care regulator) were controlling the nursing home again, and found out that the home was in a “partly terrible condition”. In their report they are talking about “psycho-social insufficiency”.

A short time later „Report Mainz“ a German TV-Magazine picked up on this case, and and informed the German public about care for the elderly in rest homes. The journalist in conjunction with experts released a book called (“Im Netz der Pflegemafia”) – The Network of the Care-Mafia. Now the problem is apparent for everyone. Brigitte Heinisch also released a book in 2008 called “Satt und Sauber?” – To be well-fed and clean, that describes these social evils.

A constitutional complaint to the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) was not accepted. Her complaint to the European Court for Human Rights in Straßbourg led to an important judgement on 21.07.2011 (No. 28274/08): 1) Disclosing wrongdoing is protected by the right to freedom of expression; 2) The public interest to know about wrongdoing in nursing homes for the elderly outweighs the interests of the company to protect its reputation and its business interests.

A year later, in the retrial at the Berlin labor court, the presiding judge proposed her to agree to a settlement. If she would not agree this could well result in some more years of legal battle. After hours of negotiation and intense pressure by the judge Heinisch agreed to a settlement.

With her seven-year-long struggle Brigitte Heinisch strengthened the right to report wrongdoing at the workplace and the right to make it public.

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 Foto: (c) Petrov Ahner   –   Text: (c) Johannes Ludwig – WBNW e.V.
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