Demand for public healthcare growing

As Greece struggles to cut its spending on public healthcare, demand for the services of state hospital and doctors is rising consistently, according the latest data from the National Health System (ESY).

In January and February, an average of some 536,500 people per month sought treatment at public hospital?s outpatient departments. This is a hike of about 8,500 people per month compared to the same period last year.

The number of people hospitalized also continues to increase. Some 197,000 people were treated per month in January and February this year, compared to about 191,000 per month in 2011. About 2,600 more surgeries are also being conducted each month.

This year is set to be the third in the row to see the number of people using public health services rising, as the economic crisis has led to more people ditching their private health insurance policies. There have also been suggestions that the crisis is having a negative impact on Greeks? health. Former government spokesman and health policy professor Ilias Mossialos told Skai radio on Saturday that Greeks will see their life expectancy drop as a result of the current economic difficulties. He added that Greece was ranked sixth on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) list for health spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, which reached 9.5 percent.

Greece has attempted to reduce its health spending over the past two years and is aiming to cut its medicines bill by 1 billion euros this year alone.

The increase in the number of people turning to state hospitals is helping raise some revenues, however, as outpatients have to pay 5 euros per visit for first-come-first-serve during early hours and between 45 and 90 euros for appointments in the afternoon.