Allgemeines Krankenhaus (AKH):
Vienna′s General Hospital - Part I

The AKH or General Hospital is a cancer of corruption, pride and bureaucracy - and ugly

The "AKH" or Allgemeines Krankenhaus (General Hospital) is not only one of the biggest hospitals in the world and one of the biggest houses of Vienna, it is without much doubt also among the ugliest buildings of Austria. The AKH is a city within the city, born by the mind of manic, centralist, Viennese socialists who thought of Vienna as the capital of the medical world - the greyish-brown twin tower can now be seen from almost any elevated spot in Vienna as a warning: Small is beautiful - the AKH is not.

Its construction took place mainly in the 1970ies and 1980ies and involved some of the biggest political scandals in the history of Austria. Until today, the AKH is a battleground for pompous professors and their personal warfare with each other. When I worked for the science division of the ORF (the national broadcast of Austria), I often filmed interviews with doctors at the AKH and felt less and less comfortable about it the more often I went there.

I saw nurses smoking between "no smoking" signs and unconscious patients; I saw the brown-grey linoleum floors that must have been bought in a second-hand store in the Soviet Union; I talked to psychiatrists that refer to patients as their "customers" and make fun of their craziness behind their back. God, I hate the AKH and if I ever end up as a patient in this facility, I will move back to Salzburg the second I am healthy again.

Socialist Gigantism as the Centre of Vienna's Medical Scene

The trenches in the AKH are not apparent to the foreigner: Officially, they run between doctors that are associated with social democrats, conservatives or the nationalist right-wing. Unofficially, there are also strong hierarchies and personal clusters of friends. Finally, there is pride, urge for power and more pride - after all, one of the main reasons why the AKH is so fucking big was that every bloody professor who couldn′t cope with his colleagues wanted his own, custom-made department with fancy new devices (the famous machine with the "ping").

The one thing I always enjoyed about the AKH (apart from leaving it), was the view on Vienna, which is amazing from the higher levels. Unfortunately, there are many rooms with no daylight at all - if Franz Kafka had been an architect, the AKH would have been his kind of style.

Some facts and figures about this socialist gigantism (keep in mind that Vienna is merely more than a over-sized village with 1.6 million residents) as of 2008: The AKH has 8,900 members of staff, of which 1,400 are doctors and 4,500 nurses. It has its own subway stop, treats 99,000 patients a year; it has 397 "Ambulanzen" where people are treated that do not stay overnight. The AKH is directly involved with the education of the approximately 11,000 students at Vienna′s Medical University. The AKH has 22 floors in two towers, which house 2,199 beds and 51 surgery theatres. There is a school service in the AKH that provides tutoring to children that are there for longer stays.

Continue with "Vienna General Hospital - Part II"

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Further Reading

Vienna General Hospital - Allgemeines Krankenhaus (AKH)

Very Good Article on the Vienna General Hospital on Wikipedia

Medical University of Vienna, Official Website