In addition to occupational accidents and commuting accidents, the German Social Accident Insurance also insures occupational diseases. Occupational diseases are illnesses suffered by insured persons as a result of their occupational activity and are listed in an occupational disease ordinance. They can be caused by a wide variety of harmful effects on health.
COVID-19 can also be recognised as an occupational disease. This is the case when people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 as a result of their work in the health and welfare services or in a laboratory fall ill with COVID-19. COVID-19 belongs to the category of infectious diseases among occupational diseases. In the case of an illness with Covid-19, a positive PCR test proves the infection. This test result and the circumstances of the infection are documented by the company or the educational institution. The responsible German social accident institution can then use these documents to determine whether the illness is an insured event, i.e. an occupational disease or an occupational accident.
In 2020 and 2021, a total of 120,398 COVID-19 illnesses were recognised as occupational diseases in Germany. More than half of these illnesses from SARS-CoV-2 infections in the workplace were recorded in the health sector.
In just under 3 per cent of the recognised cases, the diagnosis of long or post-COVID was documented. Long- or post-COVID is defined by physicians as a persistent symptom complex up to three months after the acute illness with COVID-19. If the symptoms continue beyond this time, one speaks of post-COVID syndrome. The following symptoms may occur:
The impact of the disease is not only felt by patients but also by their environment. If employees cannot return to work for a longer period of time after their COVID-19 infection, this means less predictability for companies, additional burdens for colleagues, for insurers and ultimately for the entire national economy.
Together with the BG Hospitals, the social accident insurance institutions have developed special treatment programmes in order to fulfil their legal mandate to care for people suffering from an occupational accident or an occupational diseases. These services for COVID-19 sufferers with long-term consequences who are insured by the social accident insurance include both counselling and consultation hours, but also a special diagnostic clarification procedure. Because the consequences of a COVID-19 illness can be very diverse, clinical disciplines such as neurology, pneumology, cardiology, psychology and rehabilitation also work hand in hand in the post-COVID programme.
All rehabilitation measures in the BG Hospitals are individually adapted to the needs of those affected and carried out on an interdisciplinary basis. Individual therapies focus on restoring and improving reduced lung function, general mobilisation and strengthening, and improving physical performance and body awareness. Detailed psychological diagnostics (psychodiagnostic interviews, neuropsychological and psychometric tests) as well as a wide range of psychological therapies support, if necessary, the overcoming of psychological consequences of the disease. The therapy measures are designed to help those affected find their way back into everyday life.
In order to gain further scientific knowledge and make a supporting contribution to the general evidence base, the social accident insurance funds various research projects to improve the data situation and in particular, to evaluate suitable rehabilitation measures for Long-COVID sufferers.