NEWS

Patient blogs hospital graft

Doctors in Athens pledged yesterday to look into accusations of malpractice and corruption made against their colleagues by a dying 30-year-old cancer sufferer who publicized her plight by keeping a popular online diary, or blog. It was revealed that Amalia Kalyvinou died on Friday, prompting more than 900 bloggers to log onto her site over the past few days to post messages of condolence. Greek bloggers have also decided to dedicate Friday, June 1, as a day in honor of the philosophy student. Kalyvinou used her blog over the last two years to detail the problems in the health system as she underwent treatment for cancer. The address of the 30-year-old's blog, fakellaki.blogspot.com, gives an indication of the type of problems she encountered. Fakellaki, or small envelope, refers to the bribes that patients are sometimes obliged to give doctors so they can obtain preferential treatment. Kalyvinou made a point of naming the doctors she thought had been professional as well as those she considered to be corrupt. The head of the Athens Medical Association (ISA), Sotiris Rigakis, told Kathimerini that his organization will look into the claims of malpractice but admitted that it will be difficult to bring anyone before ISA's disciplinary committee without hard evidence. «Unsubstantiated claims are an obstacle to our actions,» said Rigakis. «Nevertheless, ISA condemns doctors who take bribes. If some people are not happy with their pay, they should challenge this through legal means, not by demanding money from patients.» A recent independent study revealed that 36 percent of patients admit to having bribed a doctor. It is estimated that Greeks spend almost 200 million euros a year on bribing doctors. In a post on her blog two months ago during a break from chemotherapy, Kalyvinou said that she had come across «illogical bureaucracy» and doctors who «exploited» her financially. She also complained of having been treated in dirty hospitals and being forced to queue for hours to have her health book stamped at IKA social security fund offices.

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