Children's hospital wins a reprieve

The Alpine Children’s Hospital, one of only two such rehabilitation clinics in Switzerland, has been awarded a financial lifeline of SFr250,000 ($213,000).

This content was published on January 21, 2005 minutes

The financially troubled Davos hospital has long been fighting to carry on treating young patients with lung problems and obesity.

A glance inside the clinic’s rambling building, just off the main road in Davos, reveals the nature of its patients. The walls are brightly coloured and covered in pictures, and the staff casually dressed.

But the private hospital, which has been treating children for more than 40 years, has recently been fighting for its financial survival.

This is despite the fact that there has been a 60 per cent increase in patient occupancy over the past few years.

“We had a bad time with the canton [Graubünden] and Davos. They supported other hospitals but not us so we had to go three times to court just to keep on with our service,” said the hospital’s director, Bruno Knöpfli.

“But right now it’s turned, so we have much more support from Davos and from the canton and I think that’s very important for our future,” he told swissinfo.


The SFr250,000 - split between Davos and the canton - means that the hospital, which is also subsidised by health insurance firms and private donations, can continue its work for another two years.

And Knöpfli is optimistic that the establishment will keep going beyond that.

“We will surprise [people] - that’s my opinion,” he said. “There are people who aren't optimistic [about our survival] because of the financial difficulties in Switzerland.

“But I think because we have this speciality and we have very good staff and great success in our treatment, we have a good chance.”

Founded in 1922 to treat young tuberculosis patients, the hospital changed direction after a cure was found for the disease.

It still made use of the fresh alpine air to treat asthma and cystic fibrosis patients, but Knöpfli says the most important change was made six years ago when the hospital started to treat children for obesity.


“This means that we are specialised in a disease which will become major problem for society. Therefore we are in the right market,” said Knöpfli.

According to the Federal Health Office, obesity is on the rise. A study last year found that 25 per cent of children are overweight, three times more than twenty years ago.

The Alpine Children’s Hospital is currently the only children’s hospital specialised in obesity and has developed its own special treatment programme.

However, not all health insurance firms are willing to contribute to the SFr50,000 treatment fee.

But despite all these financial challenges, Knöpfli is philosophical about the hospital’s survival.

“We have had financial difficulties since 1922, so that’s normal, daily life in this hospital,” he said.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Davos

In brief

The six- to eight-week obesity programme includes a diet specially tailored to the child and well as daily exercise.

There are also psychology, nutrition, cooking, sports theory and normal school lessons. Parents also receive advice on nutrition.

It is normally offered to children who have failed to lose weight with outpatient treatments.

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