Fewer hospital places due to cuts

Several thousand hospital beds will be removed, dozens of doctors will be transferred and administrative staff will be reduced in a bid to reduce costs by up to 150 million euros in the public health sector.

The measures were unveiled on Wednesday by Health Minister Andreas Loverdos who described them as an effort to ?unite forces? in the health service.

He said that under the plans, the number of hospital beds available to patients would be slashed from 36,000 to 32,000 and that 500 places would be set aside for priority use by private insurance companies for their clients. Loverdos did not say how much the state would be charging for these beds.

The number of clinics and specialist units at state hospitals will be reduced from 2,000 to 1,670 as 330 will be merged and 40 will be moved in an effort to improve efficiency. Health Ministry general secretary Nikos Polyzos assured the public that all hospitals in major cities would retain units but that they would be merged at some rural hospitals.

Loverdos said that as a result of these changes, some 600 of the 21,000 doctors working in the health service would be moved to other departments.

Managers and administrative staff also face the prospect of being transferred as the 133 public hospitals will no longer all have their own management boards.

Instead, there will be a total of 83 councils responsible for administrating all the hospitals. The number of directors and deputy directors will be reduced from 175 to 144 as a result of the changes.

?We are here to finish what we have started,? Loverdos said of the changes, which will save an estimated 75 million euros by next year and 150 million euros by 2015. The reforms will be put to public consultation for the next two weeks in a process that will also include talks with doctors.

Loverdos did not rule out the possibility of further changes. ?This is the first step and if it works, we can go deeper.?

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