It has recently become clear that Vienna’s new patient advocate, who will take office on July 1, is Gerhard Jelinek, former President of Vienna’s Higher Regional Court. His predecessor, the Green Sigrid Pilz, was not renewed after two terms of office.
Jelinek is an experienced lawyer, which is undoubtedly an advantage for this position. He sees his role as an intermediary between patients, residents and the health service, he explained in a first press conference. The only thing he has never dealt with before is the Viennese health system. This is no small thing, as even insiders need years to get the hang of it.
The leader of the Viennese Greens, Peter Kraus, has now confirmed that Jelinek’s election was due to his contact with Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ). In an interview with the “Kurier” he reports: “When Jelinek presented himself to the parties, he told how he got the job: He told the mayor that he was bored in retirement and that he would like to take on a job, if there is one left somewhere. And there he is now. That, too, is an expression of this dangerous backroom policy.”
In fact, all parties in Vienna criticize the last point, at least as long as they are in opposition. In 2017, when Pilz was elected patient advocate a second time, at that time still under a red-green city government, NEOS health spokesman Stefan Gara explained: Anyone who becomes a patient advocate “is snapped up by the red-green city government behind closed doors”. And: “Obviously post-chasing between the SPÖ and the Greens is more important.” At that time, the NEOS were still in opposition.
However, the approach taken by the City of Vienna in 2022 is doubly noteworthy. Actually, “side letters” are now frowned upon, in the meantime SPÖ politicians have actually campaigned for the anti-corruption referendum and also sharply criticized the ÖVP’s political influence on the federal level when filling posts. Only at the state level in Vienna, in non-political (!) offices such as the management of the patient advocacy, does the red-pink city government apparently give a damn.
24 people applied for this position this year. Again, a public hearing did not take place. The applicants were kept in the dark about their acceptance or rejection until the very end. “It can no longer be surpassed in terms of lack of transparency,” commented FPÖ health spokesman Wolfgang Seidl to the eXXpress. “It would have to go like anywhere else in the world: the candidates face a hearing in the municipal council committee.”
The application period was also shorter than before (April 11 to May 1), it was only advertised in two official gazettes and – well hidden – on Good Friday on the internet.
PS: The rumor circulated briefly that the former president of the Vienna Juvenile Court Udo Jesionek would become the new patient advocate. According to reports, the daily newspaper that reported this misheard: “Jesionek” and “Jelinek” just sound similar. Although both lawyers are retired, only Jesionek is already 84 years old and would be 89 at the end of his term.
PPS: Particularly short application deadlines are currently in fashion in the city of Vienna. The deadline for the all-important post of Vienna Finance Director is potentially record-breaking: it was advertised in the Official Gazette on May 12, after which there are just 13 days left until the end of the deadline. (Is time pressure artificially generated…?)