Bickering at USZ – Live Appointments at University Hospital Cause Red Heads News


Senior positions in large hospitals are usually publicly advertised. But at the University Hospital Zurich, many administrative positions were filled directly. This caused irritation for weeks.

For no apparent reason, the management of USZ University Hospital Zurich, together with the management of the UZH Medical School of Zurich, decided not to publicly advertise administrative positions but to fill them directly. The USZ management wrote internally: “It is becoming increasingly clear that sooner or later we will have to proceed in a similar way to other senior posts, that is, through direct appointments.”

In fact, direct appointments are common in business, but a university hospital is a public-law institution, says former head of the specialized clinic for obstetrics at the USZ and emeritus professor at the UZH Roland Zimmermann: “Taxpayers cannot guarantee that the most suitable person will actually be appointed.” He also writes: “Whoever wants to deviate systematically from public bidding has not understood our democracy.”

USZ stops public tenders

In January 2023, the newspaper “Sonntagszeitung” reported on the controversy: due to the lack of understanding of the specially convened committee, the public tender for the position of Clinic Director and Professor of Visceral and Transplant Surgery was halted in order to fill the position with a candidate from the USA.

Research by “10vor10” now shows that two generic tenders have already been stopped according to exactly this pattern, in cardiac surgery and in anesthesiology.

Contrary to international standards

This approach is causing panic around the world, as evidenced by the United States, Canada, France, Great Britain, Norway and Germany. In Switzerland, too, professors such as Nobel laureate Rolf Zinkernagel or Christian Gerber, former head of the Balgrest Clinic, are worried. “Frequent direct appointments dampen enthusiasm for motivated entry-level employees who are suitable for the long term,” he says.

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In fact, all recognized medical institutions around the world publicly advertise clinic directors and professors, and do so internationally. This is what the university law stipulates. On the request of “10vor10”, the University of Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich write in a joint statement: “In justified cases, a direct appointment can be scheduled if the person is best suited to the profile of the specified requirements.”

Personal connections

The fact is that direct appointments are the responsibility of the Chairman of the Hospital Board of the USZ and the Director of University Medicine of the UZH. You know each of the direct appointees personally, the USZ Hospital Board Chair was recommended by Director of Health Natalie Rikli and the UZH Director is the cousin of Education Director Silvia Steiner, who is also the University Board Chair.

In short: officials of the USZ and UZH have recently appointed chief doctors and professors whom they know personally, while both are related to those responsible for politics. Upon request, both departments declared themselves not responsible. Well-known forensic psychiatrist and professor Frank Urbaniuk was a patient in one of the damaged specialized clinics at the University Hospital. On his blog, he finally called for clarification: “Politicians and the public are now called upon to create and demand transparency. The hospital board must explain itself without any condition or reservations, and they should not be relieved of this obligation!”

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