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Doctors protest, the state owes them more than 800 million

03 September 2012 / 19:09:29  GRReporter
3238 reads

Victoria Mindova

After pharmacists, doctors in Greece announced they have terminated the free services to the insured at the National Organization for Health Care Provision. The reason for nine million citizens with health insurances to lose the option of taking advantage of free medical examinations is the strike of doctors, who protest against the delay in payments the state owes them. Until now, patients who have been regularly paying their health insurances were entitled to free medical examination. The state paid for the cost of procedures performed, and doctors’ unions and the ministry had agreed that the payment should be carried out within 45 days.

Due to the crisis and the lack of available funds, a large number of doctors’ unions have not yet received the money for the months of May and June. Their amount is 230 million euro. Besides, the state has older debts to doctors for 2011, which exceed 570 million euro. "Doctors had not received the money from health insurance funds in 2010 and 2011. Then, there was a reform in the health system and the government formed the National Organization for Health Care Provision, which covered all health insurance organizations operating by that time. The money due to the doctors in Greece, however, was not paid," the president of the Medical Association of Athens George Patoulis told GRReporter.

He explained that the government has so far paid its obligations accumulated from the beginning of the year to April 2012. The costs of doctors from last years and from spring until now remain unpaid. The medical guild insists that the suspension of payments to the National Organization for Health Care Provision is equivalent to not paying the salary of an employee, working in the public or private sector. The rhetorical question "If ministers have funds to pay their salaries, why can’t the government find money to pay its obligations to the doctors?" is already often heard in the public domain. Patoulis insists that doctors in the country have allowed enough time and concessions in order for the government to find a way out of the situation. "Greek doctors have long accepted patients of goodwill. This cannot continue. "

Doctors want the funding of free medical examinations to be straight from health insurance contributions, without the money being transferred to social funds. Moreover, they insist on a permanent commission to manage the funds in the health system so as to not leave any sector without coverage. Thirdly, doctors like pharmacists want the government to deduct the tax liabilities of any doctor from the outstanding receivables for examinations made in order to facilitate the return of balance. Beyond the problems with outstanding payments for examinations made doctors in public hospitals insist on signing a collective agreement that will ensure their basic labour rights. They urge the government to allow all laboratories to perform testing covered by the health funds and to remove the restriction on visits to patients and on the medicines prescribed.
"It is time for everyone but the people taking major posts in the country and in Europe first to understand that the amounts to fund the health system cannot be variable. Once the cost of public health is estimated, specific amounts should be allocated as it is done for the payment of pensions and salaries of civil servants. In other words, those responsible for public health should be paid on time as the people in other sectors," Patoulis said in conclusion. In his capacity as chairman of the Medical Association of Athens, he will meet with the leadership of the National Organization for Health Care Provision to discuss the issue of funding.

Meanwhile, doctors working in public hospitals announced that they would hold a four-hour strike and a protest procession outside the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday, 5 September. They are against the new cut in their salaries and the budgets of hospitals.

Tags: SocietyDoctorsStrikesNational Organization for Health Care ProvisionFree medicinesExaminationsGreece
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