Bid to save two university hospitals

Two major university hospitals in Athens, the Aretaio and the Aiginiteio, are struggling to survive due to a lack of supplies and funding, but a large cash injection from the government, expected late on Monday, might help the institutions recover.

It emerged early on Monday that the hospitals, both owned by Athens University and funded by the Education Ministry, had stopped accepting new patients due to a lack of food and medicines. Meanwhile staff at both hospitals have been holding work-to-rule protests, demanding several months in unpaid wages.

Early on Monday, it appeared that the Aiginiteio – which specializes in psychiatric treatment – and the Aretaio – which focuses on surgery – would be forced to close. But later, the Education Ministry?s special secretary for higher education, Vassilis Papazoglou, declared that the two hospitals would immediately be disbursed a third of their budgets for this year – about 4 million euros each.

The budget for the hospitals – 12 million euros apiece – have been trimmed as part of a broader cost-cutting drive. In 2009, the Aiginiteio received 15 million euros from the Education Ministry.

As a rule, funding from the Education Ministry goes toward the operational costs of university hospitals – medicines, food and the salaries of workers. The hospitals receive additional funding from the Health Ministry which goes toward paying the salaries of specialist doctors and the care of uninsured patients.

The head of the Athens Medical School, Christodoulos Stefanadis, indicated on Monday that the emergency funding was coming at the right time, noting that the Aretaio and Aiginiteio hospitals were in a dire state and unable to purchase medicine or pay staff.

Employees of both hospitals are to march on Parliament on Tuesday, demanding the payment of two months in outstanding wages.

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