Greek pharmacists are determined to continue their protests at least until next week. Yesterday only “on duty” pharmacies worked in the country. Today, the rest opened their doors, but without providing medicines insured by the National Health Services System. The reason is that since the beginning of the year pharmacists have not received any money from the state insurance fund for prescribed medications.
Late last night the management of the Panhellenic Union of Pharmacists met with the ministers of health, employment, social security and with the Government Minister. At the meeting it was decided that obligations of the national system of health services to pharmacists to the amount of 540 million Euros will be paid in three doses. The first instalment of 75 million Euros, is expected to be paid on Friday, the second to the amount of 115 million Euros on May 31 and the last, 350 million Euros, on June 14.
One day later, union president Theodoros Abadzoglou said he and his colleagues expect the start of delivering what was promised, before deciding whether to suspend the protests for next week. "For the moment, we continue to protest and demand that the funds for financing the national health care system be paid," he said during a discussion, which the union organized on the theme "The future of insurance funds after the national health service system".
In his speech he pointed out that the amount regulated by law in 2011 for the financing of the national health system in Greece - 0.6 percent of GDP, has gradually shrunk to 0.4 percent. "The national health service system included insurance funds, whose total costs for 2011 amounted to 4 billion Euros. Now they had to deal with 2.25 billion Euros, which are not even granted."
According to data submitted by him, pharmacists are unable to finance their work, "especially after the decline in the percentage of our profit. Increasingly, pharmaceutical companies require us to pay them in cash for the medicines we order. This condition is mandatory if we want to get the more expensive drugs."
Theodoros Abadzoglou described a dramatic situation in which dozens of pharmacies are threatened with confiscation, because pharmacists cannot cope with their financial difficulties. "If the National Healthcare System continues not to be funded until July, it will announce full suspension of payments. Therefore, we offer a few things that we think can help keep the system operating. The first is to increase the funding to the provided by law 0.6 percent of GDP, voted last year. Second, the bonds held by two of the health funds, included in the system should become its property. Their value is 400 million Euros and thus the national healthcare system will be able to secure its finances. The third is for healthcare premiums to be paid directly to the system without having to pass through security institutions."
Pharmacists invited representatives from all political parties, so they could explain how they see the future of the healthcare system.
Dimitris Vardzopoulos from New Democracy said that a future party cabinet will keep the current structure of the system in which it will include also the few remaining health funds. As a deputy minister in the cabinet of Lucas Papademos he said that an agreement between Greece and Germany has already been signed for the introduction of Western European practice of providing healthcare services in Greece. "Now funding is directly dependent on the state budget. New Democracy’s programme provides for the reduction in healthcare deposits, so there will be a reduction in funds, which will have to be compensated," he said.
The representative of SYRIZA, Giannis Baskozos criticized the policies of the government from the last two years and said his party's position is that in order for the healthcare system to provide quality and to be accessible to all, it needs to be under government control."
No representative from PASOK came, and a representative from the Communist Party said that the healthcare, pharmaceutical industry and everything connected with health should be a state task.
Representatives of all parties agreed that the funding of the National Health Service should be increased to at least 0.6 percent of GDP and obligations of pharmacists to the tax authorities should be deducted from the money the system owes them.
The meeting was attended by the President of the Medical Association of Athens George Patoulis who requested that such deduction of obligations be done for physicians as well, who work in the National System for Healthcare Services. "If we continue with this funding, after two months there will be no hospitals, no treatment and no pharmacies. It is time for all parties, regardless of whether they are for or against the memorandum, to go together to Europe and present the Greek healthcare situation, which is tragic and cannot continue this way. " He said that doctors are also planning to hold protests, asking their colleagues, who work in the national system to receive the money owed to them. According to George Patoulis, some of them have not received any money for the last three months.