COMMENT

Stopping the hemorrhaging

By Nikos Nikolaou

It's interesting to see efforts by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia to purge the health sector of costly graft and corruption. The two ministers have already appointed young managers who have promised an honest handling of state money. But this won't be enough unless it's coupled with an effective monitoring of spending. Experts warn that, although the government has appointed managers, there is still no institutionalized management in place, meaning that there is no mechanism to monitor the leakage of state money. From the moment that hospitals don't draft balance sheets and annual reports, you cannot possibly keep track of spending on drugs and medical equipment. Computer-based monitoring, on the other hand, would immediately bring tangible results. There is no system to monitor doctors' prescriptions, i.e. the number and type of drugs they prescribe. According to a pilot program introduced by the former IKA manager, some patients were prescribed up to 266 drugs in a single month. The drugs were also found to be among the most expensive. Some doctors, it seems, have entered into suspect alliances with certain pharmacies aimed at squandering the state and insurance funds out of money. Medical spending is only the tip of the iceberg. We must also check demand for diagnostic tests and medical consultations that raise costs above those for pharmaceuticals. The party, where tests that are unnecessary or are never done are prescribed by doctors, must stop. Foreign experience demonstrates that improved, digital monitoring can reduce spending by up to 30 percent.

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