State hospitals to be merged later this year

Greece will begin merging some of its state hospitals later this year, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said on Monday, in a bit to cut costs, stamp out waste and improve efficiency.

Unveiling his ?road map for health,? Loverdos said that he would begin talks in April with all the bodies that would be affected by any mergers before announcing on July 1 the changes that would be made. ?The patron-client relationship has dominated the area of health for decades, that is why we need organization,? said the minister.

Loverdos said he would attempt to inject some ?logic? into the health sector and aims to start by cutting down on the number of state hospitals available to patients. Currently, there are 132 public hospitals. As of June, five hospitals that now only serve those insured with the Social Security Foundation (IKA) will be available to the wider public.

The minister said that these are too many hospitals for a country such as Greece. The tendency of all these hospitals to stock up on supplies was also leading to waste, added the minister. ?We have to restore some logic to this,? he said. ?We have to pool our resources.?

The presentation of the government?s plans came as state health inspectors revealed that they would be checking six hospitals over possible corruption regarding the purchase of orthopedic equipment. A probe has already been conducted at the Ippokratio Hospital in Thessaloniki.

Loverdos was joined at the news conference by the rector of the National School of Public Health, Yiannis Kyriakopoulos, who presented statistics which indicate that university hospitals bear the brunt of frontline healthcare while hospitals that are run by local authorities produce poor results for the investment that they receive. He added that the number of people using the National Health System has risen by 5 percent since last year.

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