BUSINESS

Private clinics facing bankruptcy

By Theodora Liakopoulou

Dingy curtains, crumbling paint work and skewed shutters are just a few visible signs of the money woes that are taking a toll on Greece?s private healthcare facilities, as, according to experts, of the 163 private clinics (general medicine, psychiatric, maternity etc) in operation throughout the country today, less than a third are in a position to offer decent medical services and care.

The debts most have accrued toward their suppliers have led to a halt in the supply of medicines, equipment and in some cases food.

Suppliers have even gone as far as resorting to justice to get the money owed to them, while two clinics in Attica are facing the possibility of having to close very soon.

The owners of private healthcare facilities say that the main cause of their decline is the long delays in receiving money due to them from social security foundations for cases in which patients are covered, fully or in part, by their healthcare provider.

They say that in total they are owed 800 million euros from the social security foundations, with the worst offenders being IKA, which until recently represented most of the country?s private sector workers, and OGA, the farmers? fund. Both funds have now been absorbed by EOPYY, the new, umbrella social security foundation.

Others point to the chronic reluctance of owners to formulate a comprehensive growth plan which would include investing in the purchase of new equipment, renovating building facilities (most were constructed in the early 1970s) and upgrading technical services and working conditions.

One example in point is that most clinics work only until the afternoon and are unable to treat emergencies after operating hours.

?The economic asphyxiation of small and medium-sized private medical clinics should ease by the end of the year as I believe that within the next five to eight months EOPYY will be operating smoothly and will be able to come up with a solution for the arrears so that at least a part of the old debts can be paid.

Nevertheless, the clinics that survive the crisis will be those that can formulate a growth plan and adapt to the rules that govern private healthcare today,? said Ioannis Kokolinakis, CEO of Vantage Point, a company that specializes in the fiscal overhaul of businesses, particularly in the healthcare sector.

Clinics with between 10 and 110 beds fall into the small and medium-sized category. These are mostly family-owned businesses and many continue to operate in a manner unbecoming to the healthcare sector.

For example, some -- and especially those specializing in psychiatric or geriatric medicine -- are known to have fiddled with patients? prescription books and made a tidy profit from overprescribing medicine and abusing state subsidies.

However, the newly introduced EOPYY aims to put an end to such shady practices and plans to merge many such facilities and shut down others found to be operating below par.

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