Doctors warn that health service might collapse

Doctors at state hospitals in Athens and Piraeus warned on Monday that a lack of resources and a sudden increase in patient charges are threatening to bring down the health system.

Speaking during a news conference, the president of the Athens-Piraeus Doctors? Union (EINAP), Stathis Tsoukalos, said that the government?s recent decision to adjust the price of a variety of services provided by state hospitals to patients means that the social security fund picking up the bill will soon be unable to cope.

?In some cases, the increase is 900 percent and it will surely lead to the system collapsing,? said Tsoukalos. He gave the example of an appendectomy now costing 983 euros rather than 150 and of the cost of natural births and C-sections rising by 380 and 500 percent respectively. Tsoukalos said that apart from creating problems for insurance funds, the changes, which came into effect on November 1, were shutting out uninsured Greeks from treatment.

The number of Greeks seeking free or subsidized treatment in the National Health System has risen by some 30 percent since the country?s economic crisis began, according to figures made public by the Health Ministry at the end of September.

Between January and August this year, an average of 189,537 people visited public hospitals for treatment each month, a rise of 8 percent, or 14,000 patients a month, compared to 2010. But the increase compared to 2009, when Greece?s debt problems first emerged, was even greater.

EINAP representatives also said on Monday that state hospitals in Attica were desperately short of supplies and often trade goods between themselves. There is concern that some suppliers might cut hospitals off later this month due to unpaid bills.

Tsoukalos and his colleagues criticized Health Minister Andreas Loverdos for not preventing the closure of the child heart surgery unit at the Aghia Sophia Hospital, where at least 150 children were operated on each year.

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