Striking doctors up the ante over reforms

As state hospital doctors resumed strike action on Monday in protest at radical draft legislation for the debt-ridden health sector, which is due to be submitted in Parliament on Wednesday, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos appealed to medics to display some social responsibility during the flu season.

Hospital doctors have said they will stay off the job through Thursday while doctors employed with the Social Security Foundation (IKA) are to press on with strike action through Friday.

According to sources, the action has led to the cancellation of some 30,000 appointments per day, or around 300,000 appointments over the past 10 days.

Last Wednesday Loverdos responded to the IKA doctors? strike action by announcing that people insured with IKA will be able to visit doctors who work for two other major funds – the Civil Servants? Fund (OPAD) and the Self-Employed Pension Fund (OAEE) – without charge.

Ongoing strike action by pharmacists protesting government reforms aimed at opening up their sector to competition have complicated matters in the health sector. Pharmacies in Athens are to remain closed through Wednesday, those in Piraeus will remain shut through Thursday while some emergency pharmacies are scheduled to operate on the strike days. Citizens insured with IKA and other funds who have problems finding an open pharmacy can get anti-viral flu medicine from state hospital medical dispensaries as long as they have a doctor’s prescription.

Speaking to Skai on Monday, the general secretary of the Athens Medical Association, Giorgos Eleftheriou, referred to ?a total fiasco and chaotic situation which is the fault of the government.?

Deputy Health Minister Michalis Timosidis defended the government?s reforms, noting that they constituted ?a bold attempt to stamp out problems that have existed for too many years.?

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