Cooperative Medical Centre Town of Tengen founded

by Jörg Sieg, Gottmadingen, Germany

“I will become a member of the cooperative because I think it is important that we citizens of Tengen can independently and mutually co-determine and help shape our future in our small town.” – This statement of a Tengen citizen on a flyer of the town reflects a core idea which is directly connected with the cooperative principle: Cooperatives are not only able to solve the most diverse tasks in the manageable economic, cultural and social area, they also do this in an outstandingly humane way, namely jointly and self-determined. This also applies to the newly founded cooperative for a medical centre in the town of Tengen.

Tengen, a German town on the Swiss border. (picture city of Tengen)

There are 1,001 municipalities in Baden-Württemberg. Of these, 180 already have no longer any medical care. 30 % of the established doctors in this southwest German state are older than 60 years. The “retirement wave” is underway. A family doctor practising today, who is, however, also getting older, would have to fill three positions. Young doctors are urgently needed.
Tengen is one of the 1,001 municipalities in Baden-Württemberg. It is located right on the Swiss border on the southern edge of the Black Forest, about 10 kilometres from the Swiss city of Schaffhausen in the south and a little further away from the next larger German town of Singen. Tengen is a small town with 4,550 inhabitants. And of course, it has the same problems as many other German municipalities. Now, however, Tengen’s priority was to secure medical care! Especially for the future.
The Tengener had an idea of how to solve the problem of the treat of inadequate medical care in the town: founding a cooperative for the construction of a medical centre through the joint efforts of interested citizens, the municipal administration and other important local institutions. The aim is to ensure that all Tengen doctors remain in the town.
On 19 December 2018, 300 Tengen residents and interested guests from other places met in the fully occupied hall of the Tengen Randenhalle for the foundation of the cooperative. Mayor Marian Schreier and Tengen physician Dr. Andreas Luckner presented the new project: The financing volume for a new building for a medical centre amounts to 1.9 million euros. Initially, the municipality had asked itself various questions: Are we looking for a private investor? Should the municipality bear the investment costs? Or should the town and its citizens establish a cooperative? – This would allow all the citizens of the town to participate. The concept of the founder of the cooperative, Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, helped them in their considerations.
Now, 40 % of the 1.9 million euros are to be covered by equity capital, which is 760,000 euros. There are 200,000 of these as public subsidies, so the cooperative still has the task of getting 560,000 euros together. And if 1 share certificate has a value of 500 euros, 1120 such share certificates are to be issued.
The local council very quickly agreed to found such a cooperative. Each member receives 1 vote, no matter how many shares he or she has. The town of Tengen will probably subscribe 320 shares (more shares are not possible for a single cooperative member). The majority of the cooperative members will then decide on further processes. There is no obligation to make additional contributions beyond the shares of the cooperative members! Of course all formalities, for example the foundation report, are to be examined by the cooperative federation.
Even before the meeting, many people had decided and bought 200 shares. At the end of their presentation, the speakers emphasised why citizens should participate: The future security of medical care in the town can be secured – without a foreign investor. Everything remains on site. The cooperative is committed to the long term. And the greatest attraction of the project is that everyone can join in. As the “Declaration of Intent on Participation in the Town of Tengen Medical Centre Cooperative” states: “Each signatory declares: “The aim and purpose of the cooperative is to ensure and promote medical care by building and renting a medical centre and to promote social cohesion in the town of Tengen”. (Emphasis by the author)
After the introductory speeches, there was not only a lot of applause, but many questions were also asked, for example: Can the share be inherited? Can a cooperative member resign? Is the purchase of a share dependent on age?
The atmosphere in the hall was great. I have heard that the citizens are happy to finally be able to participate directly without being dependent on anyone.
There was a great rush for the “Letters of intent for participation in the cooperative Medical Centre in the town of Tengen” as well as for the prepared flyer with all informations and tips. The author of this report was also enthusiastic about the good atmosphere in the hall and the great willingness of the citizens to participate. And he thought: Tengen – that could be
anywhere in Germany.    •