Module 3 – Insurance for doctors when working voluntarily for refugees

If doctors do voluntary work for refugees it is done in their spare time. This raises the questions to what extend they have a liability, accident, and health insurance.

8.1 Liability insurace

Practicing doctors doing voluntary work for refugees in Austria are insured due to the agreement of the Austrian Medical Association/ÖÄK and the Association of insurance companies/Verband der Versicherungsunternehmen. This agreement is called „Rahmenvereinbarung über die Vertragsbedingungen der Berufshaftpflichtversicherung“ which translates to „framework agreement of contract terms of the professional liability insurance”.

 The liability law applies regardless of a patient’s status and without restrictions.

 Apart from that the Viennese Medical Association/Ärztekammer Wien concluded its own liability insurance contract for doctors helping refugees and also takes over its costs. The condition therefore is to be listed in the medical association’s list of volunteering doctors. This liability insurance only covers treatment given while helping refugees. This insurance was primarily concluded for doctors in training and employed doctors. For practicing doctors or residence doctors who do voluntary work for refugees this is already included in their legally obligatory insurance.

E.g.: The practicing doctor A volunteers in her leisure time at the Wiener Westbahnhof. The working conditions are not the best as there are always many people and a lot of chaos. In fact she makes a mistake while treating refugee F. As a result his health condition gets worse and he needs to go to a hospital. Doctor A now worries that her doing was not insured and that she has to pay the costs for treatment now. Due the framework agreement between the Austrian Medical Association/ÖÄK and the Association of insurance companies/Verband der Versicherungsunternehmen. A as a practicing doctor has an insurance whilst volunteering.

8.2 Accident insurance

To know on what extend doctors are insured when helping refugees one must distinguish between the following:

  • Doctors insured according to the FSVG (Freiberuflichen Sozialversicherungsgesetz) are insured while treating refugees because this is counted to the insured serviced although treatment is given outside of ordination and free of cost.
  • Doctors only working as employees have insurance when their doing is known and approved by their employer. Doctors in training only have insurance if they work together with a medical specialist or general practitioner who are registered in the doctors list.
  • Resident doctors (=doctors who do not have an ordination and are not employed) have insurance according to the GSVG (Gewerbliches Sozialversicherungsgestz). This insurance also covers voluntary and cost free work.
  • Doctors can also get an insurance if they are a voluntary member of a charity organisation. (Art 176 para 1 cause 7 ASVG).
  • It is not possible to conclude an accident insurance contract on voluntary basis (e.g. with the AUVA).

8.3 Health insurance

Practicing doctors and resident doctors have health insurance depending on their form of insurance (private or self-insurance). For employed doctors the insurance given by the employer is also valid for voluntary work for refugees as it is the case with other off-duty activities.