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Greek doctors do not want PASOK’s health care reform and threaten to continue to strike

09 February 2011 / 11:02:04  GRReporter
3554 reads

Victoria Mindova

Greek citizens should expect strikes and indefinitely closed consulting rooms, according to the statements by the Greek medical association. A day before the final vote on the health system reforming bill the heirs of Hippocrates threatened to continue to protest. Doctors, management and other medical staff of public hospitals declared their request - to prevent the adoption of the bill and to discuss the submitted text with Minister Andreas Loverdos in order to be changed.

According to union representatives, the government of George Papandreou sought to impose a health policy without considering the needs of patients. "The Memorandum does not care for patients, doctors and health policy but only for cuts. This also applies to the government," they said from the union. Doctors' unions argue that the decisions to reform the health system were not made by specialists in the field, but by state officials. They think there are many unclear points in the bill generally that allow amendments to be made later to the detriment of both medical workers and citizens.

Meanwhile, public clinics are closed for patients since the last week. There are long queues in front of the cabinets on duty which are trying to meet the needs of citizens. Pensioners, mothers with children and patients are waiting for hours to get enlisted for examination after a month and a half.

Unions agree that the health system needs reform, but not the reform proposed by the government. "We can not offer effective service to citizens when there are 7000 permanent doctors across the country and the insured are over five million." They argue that the Ministry does not want to enter into dialogue with medical associations and avoids meeting them.

"If today’s lack of staff in public hospitals makes people wait more than a month to be examined the changes will make them wait six months," said the president of the doctors union in Thessaloniki, Athanasios Nikolaidis. He does not support the Ministerial proposal for the appointment of district doctors to take care for 1200 patients and to be paid a fixed salary of between 600 euros and 900 euros by the insurance funds.

"We support any type of protest of all employees in the health sector and if the law is adopted despite our disagreement we will intensify our protests," stated explicitly the president of the Panhellenic Union of Doctors Manolis Kalokerinos. Asked by GRReporter "What exactly are your requests concerning the changes in the bill?" the union representatives refused to answer and explained that their main demand now was to postpone its voting.

The Ministry of Health, in turn, has examined the percentage of doctors participating in the nationwide strike. The results showed a very different picture from that described by the unions. According to the official announcement, only 367 doctors, or 1.7 percent of registered doctors took part in the national strike. Only 109 or 1.6 per cent of the 7000 hospitals in the region of Attica are on strike. However, the protests have blocked the city centre on Tuesday morning and the insured could not be serviced at local medical centers by public doctors.  
The Health Minister Andreas Loverdos invited the doctors to a bilateral dialogue to find a middle solution on Thursday, February 10, this year. The unionists said this was a day after the fair. According to them, it made no sense to discuss the matters if the bill had been passed and was a state law already.

And while doctors and government are trying to outweigh the decision of the health reform direction, the health problems of ordinary citizens can not wait. We talked to a middle-aged woman who suffers from gonarthrosis and needs surgery. "I have been paying health insurances in the past 25 years but I can not count on public health," she says. For this reason, she will turn to her private insurance company which covers the operation costs and hopes to be up in the middle of the next month.

All the rest who were not forethoughtful or could not afford additional health insurance will have to wait in the queues in front of the doctors’ rooms and for examinations for months.

Tags: SocietyDoctorsStrikesProtestsGreece
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