NEWS

Doctors' strike draws low turnout

As Health Ministry figures indicated that only a very small proportion of doctors were participating in strike action affecting state hospitals and social security funds, Minister Andreas Loverdos on Wednesday called on unionists to join him for talks before radical reforms to the debt-ridden health service go to Parliament.

According to ministry statistics, only 376 out of 21,458 state hospital doctors joined Monday's strike. The ministry also indicated that 80 percent of the doctors employed by the Civil Servants' Fund (OPAD) and the Self-Employed Pension Fund (OAEE) had expressed willingness to receive citizens insured with the Social Security Foundation (IKA). Those insured with IKA have been unable to visit IKA doctors as the latter have been staging rolling 24-hour strikes.

According to the ministry, only 37 of the 4,150 doctors working for OAEE have refused to receive IKA patients.

Meanwhile, the Athens and Thessaloniki doctors' associations have threatened to impose sanctions on members who offer their services on strike days.

Loverdos called on unionists to join him for talks tomorrow. The minister said it was «unacceptable» that there are only 7,000 doctors available for 5 million people insured with state funds.

The reforms aim to slash spending in the state health service and create an effective primary healthcare system that treats patients with minor ailments and takes some of the burden off overcrowded hospitals. Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said the reforms would be approved. «Whoever disagrees with the need for a primary healthcare system should assume their responsibilities and speak out,» he said.

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