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NextGenerationEU
News article17 June 2024Directorate-General for Communication4 min read

Health Matters: Supporting Community Healthcare in Rural Austria

NextGenerationEU, the EU's €800 billion post-Covid stimulus package has been investing in wide-ranging initiatives across Europe. Through carefully targeted funding, it empowers countries to boost their economies and societies, accelerate the green transition, and enhance healthcare and institutional resilience, among others. Throughout Austria, a €54.2 million project has led to the employment of several hundred community nurses at municipal level. 

Launched two years ago, the community nursing project in the historic Salzkammergut region has seen nurses Tanja Gattinger and Rebecca Schachinger employed by the municipalities in the Altmünster-Traunkirchen area. As part of their role, they provide primary care and advisory services to local inhabitants, with a focus on healthcare awareness and preventative measures. They shared their thoughts with us. 

How did this project come about and where do you fit in?  

TG: The local authorities in Altmünster and Traunkirchen jointly applied for funding to employ two community nurses, which was approved at national level. We are both graduate health and nursing staff from the local area, so we were naturally interested in getting involved. I applied upon seeing the role advertised at a seminar. Rebecca joined first, and me about two months later. 

RS: It was similar for me. I applied to become a community nurse upon seeing the Altmünster municipality's job posting. Things really kicked off in March 2022, when we launched the initiative. Since then, we have developed a network of around 45 partners in the region and we are providing care to 200 patients or “clients” in the local area. 

“We have developed a network of around 45 partners in the region and we are providing care to 200 patients in the local area.” 

– Rebecca Schachinger, Community Nurse 

What are some of the project’s main highlights?   

TG: For me, the best part is the focus on awareness and prevention, as well as the autonomous, needs-oriented way we work. We have established close, trusting relationships with many patients, as we accompany them for longer periods. In the beginning, some were sceptical or puzzled by the project, but now many locals simply refer to us as “the nurses”. 

RS: I agree. The initiative has allowed us to work more freely and apply our expertise as qualified nurses in a very practical way. We can react very flexibly to patterns we observe within the local population. If, for example, we notice that many patients seem to require diabetes treatment or advice, we can tailor our approach to those needs. 

What do locals appreciate most about community nursing? 

TG: I think locals appreciate that the care provided is low-threshold in nature and easy to access. There are two of us, with full-time positions, and we are reachable Monday to Friday. We also offer evening appointments, and for some patients, we do home visits. We develop individual care plans, which means we can offer a more holistic approach. 

RS: Personally, I think it's easier for many people because they feel they really know us. There is a kind of personal touch. We both come from the local area, having grown up in Altmünster and Traunkirchen. There’s a certain closeness with local people as a result. They don’t feel as inhibited about getting in touch with us. They find it less daunting and there’s a kind of neighbourly trust between them and us.  

“We want to ensure that people remain fit and healthy and can continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible.” 

– Tanja Gattinger, Community Nurse 

What has been the project’s biggest impact?  

TG:  People tell us it has made healthcare more visible and approachable. When they experience health concerns, or their carers or family need advice, they can easily reach us. In the long run, the project is designed to relieve some of the burden on the health system. By promoting greater awareness and preventative measures, we want to ensure that people remain fit and healthy and can continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible. 

RS: I share this view. Anyone who calls our services now has access to local expertise and, by extension, our wider network. The services we provide are an example of free, low-threshold, needs-based care. When people need something or have a query, they can contact us and make the first step very easily. By promoting a healthier lifestyle, we also reassure people that they too can make a positive difference to their health.  

With this investment, Austria has chosen to leverage NextGenerationEU funds to make community nursing a priority. By financing such schemes across the country, it is making quality care more accessible in remote areas and alleviating pressure on the health system. Ultimately, this exemplifies one of NextGenerationEU’s core goals; the strengthening of healthcare and institutional resilience for the benefit of citizens in the years to come. 

Details

Publication date
17 June 2024
Author
Directorate-General for Communication
Location
  • Austria