NEWS

Doctors march on Parliament over health bill

As tensions peaked in Parliament where radical reforms of the health sector were being discussed on Wednesday, a large crowd of striking doctors marched on Parliament.

The demonstrators were joined by teachers who object to planned reforms for their sector and public transport workers who staged the latest in a series of work stoppages in protest at the streamlining of their services.

In Parliament, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos insisted that the reforms were crucial if the debt-crippled health sector is to become viable. He was condemned by virtually all opposition parties. Panayiotis Lafazanis of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) accused Loverdos of unjustifiable irritableness» and equated the reforms drafted by his ministry as «a bomb set at the very foundations of the state health system.”

The reforms aim to slash spending in the state health service and create an effective primary healthcare system that treats patients with minor ailments and takes some of the burden off overcrowded hospitals.

Wednesday marked the ninth day of a doctors’ sitin outside the Health Ministry while pharmacists pressed on with their ongoing action protesting plans to liberalize their sector. The doctors’ strike has led to the cancelation of more than 400,000 appointments in less than two weeks while the pharmacists’ action has forced citizens to wait in long queues to collect prescriptions.

The Health Ministry has indicated that only a very small proportion of doctors have joined strike action. According to ministry statistics, 376 out of 21,458 state hospital doctors joined Monday?s strike. The ministry also stated that 80 percent of the doctors employed by the Civil Servants? Fund (OPAD) and the Self-Employed Pension Fund (OAEE) had expressed willingness to receive citizens insured with the Social Security Foundation (IKA). Those insured with IKA have been unable to visit IKA doctors as the latter have been staging rolling 24-hour strikes.