Doctors to strike over reforms

Doctors at Greece?s main social security fund, IKA, are to go on strike from Monday until Thursday next week and have called on private doctors to do the same in response to changes in the way insured patients are treated.

As of January 1, Greeks insured with a range of social security funds will be treated through the newly formed National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPPY). IKA doctors fear that this means they will not be able to issue prescriptions for patients.

Doctors work for IKA on a freelance basis and fear that if they lose their patients to doctors working for EOPPY, they will also lose their jobs.

Their strike is aimed at convincing the government to allow all doctors, not just those listed with EOPPY, to be able to see patients and issue them with prescriptions. Health Minister Andreas Loverdos has in the past assured the IKA doctors that they will have this right but as yet there has been no written confirmation of this.

In a statement released Thursday, EOPPY said that doctors who do not work for the organization would be able to see patients and write prescriptions.

Pharmacists have also said they will strike on January 2 and 3 over changes to their profit margins and the money they are owed by social security funds.

The changes to the health system are part of the government?s efforts to rein in public spending and to cut down on waste. It was revealed on Thursday that another measure adopted this year, which forced civil servants to pay 20 percent of their hospital fee if they were treated abroad, led to savings of more than 10 million euros.

Public employees insured with the OPAD fund previously had their costs covered if they went abroad for treatment, but from this year they have been asked to pay a fifth of the charges. This led to a 69 percent decline in expenses for the fund, from 16.2 million euros in 2010 to 5 million this year.

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