NEWS

Health sector overhaul voted into law

A controversial bill overhauling the debt-ridden health sector was voted into law on Wednesday despite the objection of all opposition parties and vehement protests by striking doctors who demonstrated outside Parliament.

The legislation was approved, in principle, by ruling PASOK though lawmakers from the main opposition New Democracy party, as well as the Communist Party (KKE), the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) all voted against it. Additional votes on separate provisions of the bill were being carried out late into the night.

Opposition from within the ranks of PASOK was limited. One of the most vociferous critics though was Ektoras Nasiokas, a former deputy health minister who claimed that the draft legislation was not comprehensive or bold enough.

Health Minister Andreas Loverdos insisted that the reforms were crucial for Greece’s debt-crippled health sector to become viable, noting that Parliament should «celebrate» the arrival of changes that should have been introduced three decades ago.

Earlier on Wednesday striking doctors marched from the Health Ministry, where they have been staging a sit-in for more than a week, to Parliament where there were minor scuffles with police who fired small quantities of tear gas to disperse the crowd.

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.

Pharmacists protesting plans to liberalize their profession called off their action at the end of the day after Loverdos agreed to tweak the legislation outlining the overhaul of their sector. As a result pharmacies are to reopen to the public today after days of rolling strikes.

The outlook for state hospitals, which have been paralyzed by the doctors’ protest action, remained unclear late on Wednesday. So far, nearly two weeks of doctors’ strikes has resulted in the cancellation of nearly 500,000 appointments.

Health sector overhaul is voted into law