In 2021: Almost 57,000 cases treated as inpatients / Annual result with slight deficit / Third-party funds at all-time high / More students than ever before
The year 2021 was once again marked by the Corona pandemic, which had an enormous impact on all areas of Hannover Medical School (MHH). "We were able to show that we can handle such a pandemic situation excellently," emphasised President Professor Dr Michael Manns on Friday (15 July 2022) during the balance sheet press conference. "We have mastered a wide range of demands and have always been vigilant. Our doctors and nurses have treated the most seriously ill patients," Professor Manns explained. "Our researchers have been active in and co-founded numerous networks on SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. And our lecturers have successfully balanced presence and online teaching."
Turnover of almost one billion euros
The economic result for the year of -13 million euros on a turnover of almost one billion euros is also largely due to the pandemic. "This minus is mainly caused by the 'Corona special payment' to our employees, which was paid out this year due to collective labour agreements. The amount of 9.2 million euros already burdened the result in 2021, although it represents the wage increase for 2022 for the most part," explained Vice-President Martina Saurin, responsible for the department of economic management and administration. The subsidy for research and teaching from the state of Lower Saxony has also been stable in 2021 at 177 million euros. Investments of 30 million euros and maintenance services of 50 million euros have remained at the previous year's level.
"The great importance of the MHH as an economic factor in Lower Saxony is also reflected in the number of employees with 10,945; this corresponds to 8,499 full-time employees working here last year," added Saurin. In 2020, the figure was 8,497. The MHH is also proving to be one of the most international places in Lower Saxony in 2021: 1,035 employees with foreign passports work on the campus, coming from 102 countries.
With nearly 30,000 operations almost at pre-Corona level
The Corona pandemic had already led to a decline in patient numbers in 2020. The MHH was able to stop this trend. "In 2021, more than 57,000 cases were again treated as inpatients in our clinics, which is about ten per cent less than before the pandemic," emphasised Vice-President Professor Dr Frank Lammert, responsible for patient care at MHH. "Outpatient case numbers and surgery figures have stabilised again, and we recorded a slight increase in surgeries last year and were back at pre-Corona levels in 2021 with just under 30,000 operations," Professor Lammert explained. "In transplant medicine, we were able to maintain our high level and remain the largest centre in Germany, with 337 organ transplants in 2021."
Patient care was significantly affected by COVID-19: "Last year we treated 239 people for a SARS-CoV-2 infection in an intensive care unit, almost 500 patients were treated with a SARS-CoV-2 infection in normal wards," said Professor Lammert. "But this also shows that only about 1.5 per cent of our patients had SARS-CoV-2, we treated 98.5 per cent for other diseases." The biggest problem at MHH remains the shortage of skilled workers, as the vice-president added: "Anyone looking for a fulfilling but also challenging job in health care and nursing is welcome!"
Research continues to soar
In 2021, the MHH spent the record sum of 97.2 million euros of acquired third-party funds on research. "The diverse research on SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 contributed to this: since the beginning of the pandemic, our researchers have raised more than 42 million euros in this research field alone," explained Professor Manns, who as President is responsible for the Research and Teaching Department.
According to the funding atlas of the German Research Foundation (DFG) published at the end of 2021, the MHH is in fifth place among all German universities in the field of medicine, and even in third place in terms of third-party funding per professorship. "This means that we are living up to our claim to be among the top five most efficient institutions of university medicine in Germany," emphasised the President.
With its focus on infectious medicine, which has been established and grown for years, MHH was well prepared for the special challenges of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, Professor Manns explained. "We were a founding member of the National Network of University Medicine (NUM) as well as the Lower Saxony Network of Infectious Medicine COFONI." In addition, he said, MHH participated in the research and clinical development of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines as well as the new drugs.
Preparations for the new clinic building proceed
The project to build a new clinic on Stadtfelddamm has made progress in 2021 with the handover to the newly founded subsidiary "Hochschulmedizin Hannover Baugesellschaft mbH" (HBG). "Even if the construction site doesn't look like it yet: Preparations for the new building are proceeding," said Vice-President Saurin. Currently, investigations are being initiated into explosive remnants from the Second World War and possible soil risks.
"Currently, the constructional development planning of the entire hospital care of the MHH is being coordinated in the expected timeline with the still necessary repair measures in the existing buildings." These buildings would have to remain in operation until the end of the third construction phase of the new building and would have to be technically upgraded accordingly. "This interlocking of the costs for the new building on the one hand, calculated by HBG, and the safeguarding of the existing buildings on the other, quantified by MHH, over a period of at least ten years, always requires complex calculations," she added. In addition, the maintenance measures in the research and teaching buildings must of course be planned and calculated. There are currently no plans for new buildings for research and teaching, apart from the building for the Centre for Individualised Infection Medicine (CIIM), which is being built by the Helmholtz Association and will then be used jointly by the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the MHH.
Prospects for patient care in the future
The MHH fulfils its university care mandate without restriction and offers all necessary highly specialised services. For example, in organ transplantation, paediatric oncology and paediatric cardiac surgery, almost all treatments in Lower Saxony are carried out at the MHH. "This centralisation and the recognition of university hospitals as a separate level of care are necessary and sensible for the state of Lower Saxony," Professor Lammert explained.
The same applies to the current year: "The burdens on employees in patient care remain high, the relief provided by better digitalisation and robotics are still dreams of the future, and most of the MHH buildings have been in use for more than 50 years," added the Vice-President. "Nurses, doctors and physicians are working at the limit. They treat seriously ill patients with the means of highly specialised medicine, they conduct research in their respective fields, and they train future colleagues. At the same time, they are confronted with a constant compression of work and additional burdens due to the pandemic." As an employer, the MHH is counteracting this with a variety of measures, such as flexible working hours, strict compliance with all personnel requirements, qualification programmes and marketing campaigns. "However, the framework conditions are also important, which the state would like to change and improve, for example, through the new version of the Lower Saxony Hospital Act and the definition of hospital care levels, quite rightly."
Great performance with "supra-regional international appeal"
In 2021, the MHH was assessed on site by the Medical Committee of the Scientific Commission of Lower Saxony (WKN). The WKN attests to the MHH's great performance strength in all areas (patient care, research, teaching) with "supraregional international appeal". The previous focus areas "Infection and Immunity", "Transplantation and Regeneration" and "Biomedical Technology and Implant Research" were confirmed; the area of oncology was classified as an area of potential. The inclusion of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Lower Saxony in the series of Oncological Centres of Excellence by the German Cancer Aid (DKH) was very much welcomed. "We were also encouraged to push ahead with internationalisation as well as the academisation of the various health professions," Professor Manns explained. "However, the Medical Committee of the WKN sees the MHH facing major challenges in terms of structural and personnel renewal, i.e. the generational change of key service providers. These are to be mastered with the support of the state."
In addition, the state of Lower Saxony had asked WKN to conduct an analysis of the potential of the science system in Lower Saxony and to make recommendations in preparation for the next round of the Excellence Initiative 2025 of the federal and state governments. "We are preparing intensively for this next round. In addition to the two existing clusters of excellence on hearing research and infection research, we want to apply with two further cluster initiatives: one on implant research, another on regenerative and transplant medicine," said the President. "The WKN has given the green light for the existing clusters and the new cluster initiatives. The state of Lower Saxony is supporting us financially, for which we are extremely grateful."
3,780 young people from 79 countries studied at MHH last year - more than ever before. "This is also due to the fact that we have increased the number of places on the model course in human medicine by 50 in the winter semester 2020/21 and have added a new master course in 'Biomedical Data Sciences'," Professor Manns emphasised. In addition, a new licensing regulation for dentistry (ZAppO) has been introduced, the first innovation in dental education for decades.
Hope for a balanced result despite major imponderables
For the current year, Vice-President Martin Saurin sees the economic situation as still stable and balanced, despite frequent staff absences due to Corona, which burden the MHH just as much as other hospitals. "However, the price increases, especially for energy, harbour great imponderables for the second half of the year," she emphasised. "In view of the commitment of all employees and the acceptance of our patients, we are confident that we will be able to close the year 2022 with a break-even result.
Well prepared for the future: thanks to all employees
MHH President Professor Manns spoke for the entire Executive Board when he said: "We have positioned the MHH well for the challenges of the future. This is shown, for example, by the way we acted and are still acting in the Corona pandemic. I can only say a big thank you to all our staff." And the Executive Board is certain: the integration model of the MHH, in which patient care, research, teaching and administration are under a single management, has proven its worth especially in the pandemic, in which all areas were or are still strongly affected. "Our goal is our motto: Every day for life."
The MHH key figures can also be found here and at www.mhh.de/die-mhh.
The Annual Report 2021 can be downloaded here and at https://www.mhh.de/presse/publikationen.