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Archive for the ‘Patient Land of Poland’ Category

German hospital luring Brexit-worried Polish nurses from UK

February 26, 2019

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Worried about Brexit? Come to Germany where you get better salaries, better weather, tastier food — and a shorter trip for visits home to Poland. That’s a German hospital’s pitch to Polish nurses working in Britain, who are among scores of European workers worried about what will happen to their work permits and right of residence if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on March 29.

The university hospital of Duesseldorf put out the ads in two Polish weekly papers in Britain late last month. It’s more than a friendly Brexit lifeline extended to citizens of a neighboring country: the hospital is in dire need of nursing staff and is hoping to fill that shortage with experienced professionals whose time in Britain may be running out.

“We have already received first inquiries,” Torsten Rantzsch, the director of nursing at the hospital in western Germany, told The Associated Press. He said the ads were deliberately written in a tongue-in-cheek style, but that “we also wanted to offer an alternative to Polish colleagues, namely the security of an EU country.”

Tens of thousands of European Union citizens currently living and working in Britain are concerned about what will happen to their status when the UK leaves the 27-country bloc. With just a month to go before Brexit day, there has been no clarity on their future status — and that uncertainty is worsened by the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Since Poland joined the EU in 2004, 20,000 of the country’s 280,000 nurses have left their home country for Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe. The advertisement features Duesseldorf’s pretty skyline with the city’s landmark TV tower in front of blue skies and the Rhine River in the foreground, with the pitch written in both Polish and German.

The hospital decided to focus its campaign specifically on Poles, because many learn German in school and would be able to fit in quickly, Rantzsch said. “We deliberately kept the advertisement in German … because we wanted to address German-speaking nursing staff,” said Rantzsch, adding that the Duesseldorf university hospital needs to hire 100 additional nurses. Overall there’s a shortage of 70,000 nursing staff in German hospitals.

The hospital has already had good luck turning abroad to fill its shortage of skilled nurses. In 2012, Duesseldorf’s university hospital — and many other hospitals across Germany — started looking for nurses in Spain and other European countries with higher unemployment or lower wages at the time, like Italy, Hungary and Romania.

One of the first international recruits in Duesseldorf, Susana Garcia from Spain, first found out about the opportunity from the newspaper ads. She says she loves her job at the university hospital. “Working conditions here in Germany are super,” the 29-year-old nurse said. “We have full-time contracts even though we’re very young, we’ve been here now for six years.”

Grieshaber reported from Berlin. Vanessa Gera contributed from Warsaw, Poland.

Poland divided over having presidential vote during pandemic

April 03, 2020

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s parliament is preparing to vote Friday on legislation that would transform the country’s May presidential election entirely into a mail-in ballot due to the health risks of having public voting stations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal by the populist ruling Law and Justice party to go forward with the May 10 election is controversial. Opposition candidates say having the election during the pandemic is undemocratic and it should be postponed. They argue that opposition presidential candidates stand no chance against conservative President Andrzej Duda because they cannot campaign due to a strict ban on gatherings. Duda, meanwhile, still profits from heavy coverage on state media.

Critically, even one faction in the ruling coalition is strongly opposed to holding the vote, raising speculation in Poland that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government could be toppled by the crisis.

Surveys show that a large majority of voters in this European Union nation of 38 million want the election to be postponed due to the pandemic. Kamil Bortniczuk, a lawmaker with the faction opposed to the voting, told the radio broadcaster RMF FM his group would try to convince ruling party lawmakers “that Poles today do not want elections in such conditions and they cannot be prepared so quickly.”

“There is not enough time to gain confidence among citizens in such a way of voting, and thus in the results of the election,” Bortniczuk said. Law and Justice officials insist that the current election timeline — voting on May 10 with a runoff on May 24 if no candidate wins 50% in the first round — is dictated by the constitution and should not be changed.

The leader of the ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, insisted Friday that to postpone the election “would be completely illegal.” He said “there is no reason to postpone it at the moment if it is conducted in a safe way from a health point of view.”

Poland has had far fewer coronavirus infections and deaths than fellow EU countries like Italy and Spain, but the numbers have been accelerating in recent days, reaching 2,946 infections and 57 deaths on Friday.

Some Polish media outlets have suggested the country’s true numbers are actually much higher due to low levels of testing. Polish media have also reported about people dying of pneumonia who most likely have COVID-19 but who do not show up in the statistics because they were not tested.

The debate over the mail-in vote shares similarities with efforts in the United States by Democrats seeking widespread voting by mail in the November presidential and congressional elections. So far, the Democrats have not gotten the billions of dollars in federal funding required to move to widespread voting but say they will keep pressing the issue.

Poland’s ruling party declares victory in divided nation

October 14, 2019

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s conservative governing Law and Justice party won the most votes in Sunday’s election in the deeply divided nation and appeared, according to an exit poll, to have secured a comfortable majority in parliament to govern for four more years.

The exit poll, conducted by the research firm Ipsos, projected that Law and Justice won 43.6% of the votes. That would translate into 239 seats, a majority in the 460-seat lower house of parliament. The poll said a centrist pro-European Union umbrella group, Civic Coalition, would come in second with 27.4%. The biggest party in the coalition is Civic Platform, which governed Poland in 2007-2015.

Coalition leaders cheered and welcomed the result as a spur toward uniting society around common goals. Other parties projected to surpass the 5% threshold to get into parliament were a left-wing alliance with 11.9%, the conservative agrarian Polish People’s Party with 9.6% and a new far-right alliance called Confederation with 6.4%.

The exit poll had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. Final vote results, which are expected by Tuesday, could shift, as they have in past elections. A prominent journalist, Konrad Piasecki, said that “at the moment it looks like the largest triumph in the history of parliamentary elections” in Poland. But he also cautioned that results varying even slightly from the exit poll could mean big changes to the distribution of seats in parliament.

Law and Justice has governed Poland since 2015 and is popular for its social conservatism and generous social spending. It ran a campaign that highlighted its social programs and vowed to defend traditional Roman Catholic values.

It has been accused of weakening the rule of law in the young democracy with an overhaul of the judicial system that has given the party more power over the courts and has drawn criticism as well for using state media as a propaganda outlet and for anti-gay rhetoric.

Pawel Zerka, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said the high level of support for Law and Justice, known in Poland by its acronym PIS, “should not be interpreted as a sign that Poles have become nationalist or xenophobic. Rather, it reveals an effective party machine – and an ability of PIS to mobilize voters with policies based on direct social transfers.”

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is considered the real power behind Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government, cautioned that the exit polls weren’t the final results but nonetheless declared victory.

“We received a lot but we deserve more,” Kaczynski told party supporters as he held high a bouquet of roses. Civic Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna said the fight wasn’t fair, an apparent reference to the way Law and Justice harnessed state media to pump out positive coverage of itself while casting a poor light on political rivals.

“This was not an even struggle; there were no rules in this struggle,” Schetyna said. The left-wing party leaders celebrated their expected return to parliament after failing to get any seats in 2015.

Critics fear that four more years for Law and Justice will reverse the democratic achievements of this Central European nation, citing the changes to the judiciary and the way the party has marginalized minorities, for instance with its recent campaign depicting the LGBT rights movement as a threat.

Law and Justice’s apparent success stems from tapping into the values of the largely conservative society while also evening out extreme economic inequalities. It is the first party since the fall of communism to break with the austerity of previous governments, whose free-market policies transformed Poland into one of Europe’s most dynamic economies.

However, many Poles were left out in that transformation and inequalities grew, creating grievances. Law and Justice skillfully addressed those concerns with popular programs, including one that gives families a monthly stipend of 500 zlotys ($125) for each child, taking the edge off poverty for some and giving others more disposable income. It says it has been able to pay for its programs thanks to a tighter tax collection system.

It has also clearly benefited from the sacrifices forced by earlier governments and the growth of Europe’s economy. In his victory speech, Kaczynski referred to his party’s improvement of public finances and said it would continue on that path.

“We are finishing a certain stage; we are starting a new one,” he said. “It is not easier, maybe more difficult. But I hope that it will be finished with even greater success.”

Poland’s ruling party opens campaign pledging new benefits

September 07, 2019

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland’s nationalist ruling party promised higher earnings, adherence to Catholic values and more judicial system changes as he started campaigning Saturday for next month’s parliamentary election.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski went to the city of Lublin in one of Poland’s poorer eastern regions on to launch the right-wing Law and Justice party’s campaign for the Oct. 13 parliamentary election. Kaczynski vowed to build a “Polish version of prosperity” by increasing minimal wages and payments to retirees.

Social benefits to families with children and adherence to traditional, Catholic values helped make his party Poland’s most popular political force by far, so they are not a new campaign strategy. Opinion polls indicate about 40% of eligible voters back Law and Justice.

Kaczynski, 70, said that if voters give the party another four-year mandate, the next Law and Justice government would push for more changes in the judiciary. Actions by the current government, such as trying to change the makeup of Poland’s Supreme Court by lowering the retirement age for judges, were criticized by European Union leaders as steps that would erode democracy.

The “power of the courts has nothing to do with democracy, only serves the oligarchy,” Kaczynski said without elaborating. The powerful party leader reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage, euthanasia and abortion on demand. He said that in predominantly Catholic Poland, the Catholic Church represents the “one and only” value system.

“Outside (the church), there is nihilism which destroys everything and builds nothing,” Kaczynski said. Poland’s main political opposition grouping, Civic Coalition, launched its campaign Friday with a social program that largely followed the ruling party’s spending policies.

Slain Gdansk mayor’s deputy wins by-election in Poland

March 04, 2019

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The deputy to slain Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz has won a by-election to become his successor and the first woman to hold the post, officials in Gdansk said Monday. The city’s electoral commission said that 39-year-old lawyer Aleksandra Dulkiewicz was backed by more than 82 percent of voters in Sunday’s vote. She had been acting mayor since Adamowicz’s Jan. 14 death from stab wounds he suffered the day before while onstage during a charity event.

The attacker then grabbed a microphone and said it was revenge against an opposition political party that Adamowicz had once belonged to. The attacker is awaiting trial. Adamowicz’s slaying became a platform for calls for political reconciliation but also criticism of Poland’s conservative ruling party.

In her first comments as mayor, Dulkiewicz thanked voters and asked them to help cultivate a sense of community that grew out of their collective sorrow in the weeks since Adamowicz’s death. She asked the residents to be “better to each other and smile to each other more often.”

Poland’s idle restaurants send free food to medical ‘heroes’

March 20, 2020

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A popular Warsaw entertainment center looks empty and closed amid a government ordered shutdown from the coronavirus, but inside, cook Bozena Legowska is busy. One hot pizza after another is lifted out of the oven, boxed and whisked to a nearby hospital for a hungry staff of doctors who are working harder than ever under the pressure of the spreading virus.

The pizza boxes are inscribed with upbeat messages, including, “You are our heroes.” The Ale Zebra center in northern Warsaw has joined a growing nationwide network of restaurants and eateries showing their appreciation for the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals by bringing them free meals.

Last week, the government imposed a “national quarantine” that closed schools, universities, restaurants and culture centers, asking everyone to stay home if possible. But that order doesn’t apply to health care workers, who face a time of incessant, intensified effort. A nation of 38 million, Poland has 378 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections. Five of the patients have died.

While restaurants are closed to the public to try to keep the virus from spreading, they can still do takeout orders and deliveries. That has prompted #gastropomaga — “Gastronomy is helping” — and similar actions on social media to alleviate at least some of the worries for hospital workers who have no time to get a tasty meal.

“At least the doctors don’t go hungry or worry where and how to get food,” said Iwona Sobczak, a secretary at the rescue ward of the Bielany Hospital, as she came out into the parking lot to collect the 10 offered pizzas. While those infected with the coronavirus are being treated at another facility, the Bielany Hospital is under greater pressure than usual as other patients are transferred there.

Other messages on the pizza boxes for the doctors read: “We are with you” and “Zebra is helping.” Maciej Kolacinski, the host-manager at Ale Zebra, said the “feeling of joy one has when doing something good for the others is hard to describe.”

His usually bustling Ale Zebra club caters to all ages with its pizza parlor that can host a party for 120 people, and features laser tag, billiards, slot machines and even an “Escape Room” where players are locked in and must hunt for clues to try to find a way out.

It’s all empty and quiet now. Hand disinfectants are next to a wash basin and on the counter. A customer collects his order of two pizzas through a small window from the outside and pays with a touch card.

“Our financial situation is not a comfortable one,” Kolacinski said. “We are making no money, but this is true for every one now. We are trying to do something positive.” On March 11, the government announced a “shield program” worth 212 billion zlotys ($52 billion; 47 billion euros) for businesses hit by the pandemic. The bailout includes state contributions to wages, postponement of social insurance payments and an injection of cash for infrastructure and education investments.

The “meals for medics” campaign has been joined by many others in Warsaw. The Indian Taste restaurant is among those delivering food to the contagious diseases hospital on Wolska street, where coronavirus patients are treated.

One of the deliverymen wearing a scarf across his face carried a container of spicy food with lots of garlic and ginger. “I live nearby. Maybe I also catch the virus and I will have to be hospitalized here,” he told the OKO.press independent news portal in a video interview.

The campaign to provide free food for medics began last week in the eastern city of Bialystok and has spread nationwide. Magdalena Rothe, owner of the Futu Sushi bar in Bialystok, was among the first to call hospitals to ask how she can help. Now a group of restaurants and bakeries have organized a schedule of deliveries to hospitals to avoid overlapping.

“We will not feed the entire hospital, but those 15 meals will allow the doctors to sit down for a while and eat something,” Rothe told The Associated Press by phone. “It is a spontaneous gesture of thanks for their very stressful work these days.”

In other acts of social solidarity during an uncertain time in Poland, people are posting notices for elderly neighbors, offering to go shopping or walk their dogs so the vulnerable can stay home and isolate themselves from infection.

An ambulance station that is on the front line of the virus crisis was another recipient of the free pizzas from Ale Zebra. Paramedic Jozef Grygo took to social media to thank them, saying a “full rescuer is a good rescuer.”

—- While nonstop global news about the effects of the coronavirus have become commonplace, so, too, are the stories about the kindness of strangers and individuals who have sacrificed for others. “One Good Thing” is an AP continuing series reflecting these acts of kindness.

Ukraine, Poland want continued sanctions on Russia

August 31, 2019

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Saturday he and Poland’s president have agreed that sanctions ought to continue against Russia until Ukraine regains the territory it lost in Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Zelenskiy, accompanied by some members of his Cabinet, was on his first visit to Poland as president for political talks and to attend ceremonies planned for Sunday to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II.

He said he and Polish President Andrzej Duda had discussed the next steps needed to end the war in eastern Ukraine and to return the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine. “We have agreed on our next steps to stop the war in eastern Ukraine and to bring back occupied Crimea,” said Zelenskiy, who was a comedian who starred on a popular sitcom before his election in April.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in a move that Ukraine and almost all of the world views as illegal. The European Union and the U.S. imposed sanctions. In eastern Ukraine, a deadly conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has gone on for five years.

Zelenskiy said his and Duda’s “joint and principal position” is that the EU “sanctions should be reviewed only to be increased- not otherwise” unless existing peace agreements are fully implemented and “the territorial unity of Ukraine according to its internationally agreed borders” is restored.

Duda said he assured Zelenskiy of his support for continuing sanctions on Russia and protecting “Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.” Duda said especially in the context of Sunday’s World War II anniversary, “We must stress how very important it is that no one, in Europa or in the world, is allowed to change borders by force.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of world leaders also will take part in the anniversary ceremonies in Warsaw. The invasion of Poland by Nazi German troops on Sept. 1, 1939 marks the outbreak of World War II.

Poland remained under Nazi German occupation for more than five years and lost some 6 million citizens.

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