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Greeks have been spending less on health care after the crisis

20 March 2012 / 20:03:07  GRReporter
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Victoria Mondova

Greeks have started spending less money on health and medications due to the crisis. This is the conclusion of the annual forum on health organized by the Financial Times "Shaping the Future of Healthcare in Greece." Total expenditure of households on health care was calculated at 7.4% of the total budget before the crisis. Now there is a decrease in this type of expenditure by individuals and they do not spend more than 6% on health per month. These are the data presented by John Yfantopoulos, Professor of Economics of Health and Social Politics at the University of Athens.

The financial crisis has a serious impact on public health and the first sign is the jump in suicides. This is the conclusion of the sociologist David Stuckler from the University of Cambridge, UK. The risks of the deteriorating financial condition of the country consist of increased dependence on alcohol and drugs. The amount of social benefits is falling, revenues are diminishing and the changes in the economic environment are sharp. Under these conditions, the government must have a strategy to counteract the negative effects from the poor economic condition of citizens in order to limit the final acts. Financial problems and the crisis in the Eastern Bloc countries in the middle of the 1990s led to a sharp increase in alcohol consumption, said the young scientist especially for GRReporter. However, in Greece, this phenomenon is not observed.

"There may not be an increase in alcohol consumption, but unfortunately, we see a jump in the use of drugs like heroin in the wake of the crisis. We still need concrete evidence, but it is clear from the sharp jump of the number of people infected with AIDS in the country." The data suggests that the number of HIV infections have risen by 52%. Suicides have increased by 60%. People who do not feel well, but refuse to go and see a doctor for financial reasons have jumped by 15%, almost 40% of employees do not receive compensations for illness, and murders and robberies have increased by 100%.

Yfantopoulos, Stuckler and the other participants in the forum are adamant that it will take long for Greece to develop a stable and effective health care system and this must be started by modernizing and optimizing the present infrastructure, rather than just by financial constraints.

Medications costs are the biggest part of the budget. Reducing health care costs today, unfortunately, leads to an unexpected growth of diseases tomorrow. This is the opinion of Hans Kluge, Director of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health to the WHO Regional Office for Europe. He said the biggest problem of the health care system is inefficient financing. Black holes in supplies, medications and management should be overcome, because otherwise there would be no improvement in the final services for citizens, despite the reforms carried out so far. According to him, human resources in the health care system that were identified as one of the most important factors for the level of services offered, should not be ignored. If the deepening financial crisis causes the loss of key personnel, no additional measures will be able to fill this gap, Kluge insisted.

It became clear at the same forum that the Greek Ministry of Health is expected to sign a memorandum of cooperation with German experts, who will give practical advice on improving the management of public hospitals. This was stated by the Head of the European Union Task Force for Greece, Georgette Lalis. The aim of this cooperation is to establish technical and regulatory framework for the health care system in order to apply the reforms in the sector stipulated in the second Memorandum of financial aid from Europe. Lalis determined that the three most pressing issues of the Greek health care system are poor management, high costs and the lack of effective control. Problems in the health care system in Greece can be solved by taking the best practices from different countries in the European Union and applying them in Greece.

Physicians, ministers and heads of pharmaceutical companies have agreed on the issue that Greece should finally introduce electronic prescribing. At the same time, the Greek electronic prescribing system is lacking 200,000 euro to improve the existing electronic prescribing system. But for it to be completed at all levels 30 million euro are required.

Financial problems continue and although costs for medications were € 5.5 billion in the 2011 state budget, nobody made any discount, said Athina Dretta, Secretary General at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The problem of the chronically ill in Greece is not the lack of medications but the lack of a system to monitor their condition. Dretta insisted that along with fiscal consolidation and reforms, the Ministry should take over the immediate development of a relevant infrastructure.

Tags: EconomyMarketsHealth careGreece
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