NEWS

More hospital disruptions ahead

Disruptions in state hospitals are set to continue in the coming days, as doctors Thursday said that they will continue staging work stoppages in protest over unpaid backpay and the government?s cuts in the health sector.

Doctors at public hospitals also said they will snub an electronic prescription scheme that was recently introduced by the Health Ministry in a bid to discourage staff from over-prescribing.

In a press conference Thursday, the head of the union representing Greece?s hospital doctors, known by its acronym OENGE, sounded the alarm over the mammoth debts owed to clinics by the newly-formed National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY).

?The national health system is headed for collapse at an accelerating pace,? OENGE chief Dimitris Varnavas said, putting EOPYY debts at 4 billion euros. Unless a solution is found, he said, the system will last until early summer.

Doctors and staff from some 35 hospitals across the country have so far joined the action, Varnavas said, predicting that participation will surge in the coming days.

Doctors complain that they have not been paid emergency duty wages for December last year as well as for this January and February. Varnavas said that the union is demanding that all back-pay be submitted in full, preempting speculation that the government intends to slash the amount paid to doctors by 30 percent.

As part of receiving the second bailout package from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund, Greece has promised to reduce health spending by about one billion euros. Measures agreed to include cuts in spending on medicines by state pension funds and legislation enabling the prescription of cheaper, generic drugs.

Seeking to cut down on waste and corruption in the issuing of drugs, the Health Ministry introduced an electronic prescription system combined with a one-euro fine on doctors who issue hand-written prescriptions. The fine is scheduled to go into effect in June.

Protesting doctors Thursday said they would all switch back to hand-written prescriptions unless the government scrapped the fine and resolved the issue of outstanding emergency duty wages.

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