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Free medicines crisis continues

10 September 2012 / 21:09:05  GRReporter
2473 reads

Victoria Mindova

The Ministry of health has announced that it is ready to pay pharmacists its June debts as early as Wednesday this week if they stop the strike and resume giving free medicines to people. The amount pharmacies will receive on 12 September will be 145 million euro. With this the government will cover the medicines prescribed in the first half of the year, which should have been paid for by health insurance funds, but pharmacists have not received their money.

If the National Union of Pharmacists accepts the proposal, the ministry will pay the cost of free medicines prescribed in July and August, which exceeds 600 million euro, on 12 October. In December, the government will pay for the free prescriptions dispensed in September.

"A condition to meet the particular timeframe for the payment of government obligations to pharmacists is its adoption by the National Union of Pharmacists and the immediate resumption of dispensing the prescriptions for free medicines," Deputy Health Minister Marios Salamas said in relation to the case.

After a three hour meeting of the management body, the Union failed to decide whether to accept or reject the Minister's proposal. "We will convene a national meeting of pharmacists across the country on Saturday, 15 September, to take a position on the proposal," the press office of the organization told GRReporter exclusively. Asked whether the Union is expected to lose the opportunity to receive 145 million euro on Wednesday, the press centre said, "This is a decision of the Ministry. We cannot give an opinion before the meeting on Saturday."

While pharmacists were discussing whether to accept the government's proposal, Athens Medical Association issued a statement condemning the government for the selective payment of obligations to the various players in the health sector.

"The political leadership of the Ministry of Health should ensure that all providers of public health services will be paid their receivables in a proportionate and equitable manner and will not give priority to those, who shout the most or threaten to cease to provide their services," the open letter of Athens Medical Union reads.

On Tuesday, physicians across the country, who work with health funds, will protest again. Some of them will be absent for two days, while others will not accept patients willing to use their health insurance. Examinations will be only against payment. "The law of the jungle must not prevail in the health sector, but those who play narrow party games will soon realize that there is no public health without physicians," the message of physicians from the capital concluded.

Meanwhile, the main victims remain the citizens. "The situation is very serious," a young pharmacist working at a small neighbourhood pharmacy in the capital told GRReporter. She said she had warned chronically ill patients to take prescriptions and obtain the necessary medicines at the beginning of August.

The decision to suspend giving free medicines until the government pays its obligations was taken in August. Some pharmaceutical associations in the country suspended dispensing free prescriptions on 10 August this year. On 30 August, all Greek pharmacies took part in the protest. "We could not keep people in the dark, and the strike was inevitable – the funds owed pharmacists throughout the country nearly one billion euro."

The young woman said that after the suspension of free medicines, elderly people with low pensions as well as young families who cannot afford to buy urgent medicines have been in the most difficult situation. "There are people in Greece who cannot buy aspirin after the reductions," she said and added, "This did not happen once upon a time. And now, it is happening more and more often." She said that over 80% of the turnover of pharmacies depends on the medicines covered by the National Organization for Health Care Provision. While the protest is ongoing, there is almost no work but the medicines taken from wholesalers have to be paid for each month.

Tags: SocietyPharmaciesPharmacistsFree medicinesStrikeGreece
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