Doctors react to hospital mergers, plan strike

Doctors at public hospitals are reacting to a Health Ministry draft bill that is slated to be voted in Parliament on February 29, and which introduces cost-cutting measures including the merger of healthcare facilities. Doctors say this will place an impossible burden on smaller hospitals and clinics.

According to the draft law, by the beginning of 2013, Greece?s 132 public healthcare facilities will be whittled down to 82 through the merger process and each new entity will have one budget and one supply system.

Hospital doctors, who on Friday called a 24-hour strike to coincide with Parliament?s vote on the bill, say that the new law will render defunct small hospitals, which often supplement centralized healthcare, especially in remote parts of the country that have limited access to larger institutions.

?The law will basically lead to the closure of departments in small hospitals in order to staff the same departments at the big hospitals with which they have been merged,? Dimitris Varnavas, head of the Federation of Greek Hospital Doctors, told Kathimerini. He cited the closure of the emergency unit in northern Greece?s Ptolemaida to cover staff shortages in Komotini, where the region?s main hospital is located, from February 20-29.

Hospital doctors have also reacted to an announced 17 percent reduction in overtime pay for emergency duty, a measure that will bring savings of 50 million euros to the cash-strapped state.

According to Varnavas, the reduction ?means that some doctors, like interns and junior residents, will be receiving less that 5 euros an hour during emergency duty.?

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry?s supply committee has said that it expects to sign contracts with suppliers, who have called an embargo until hospitals pay their outstanding debts, by the end of March.

Committee head Katerina Kastanioti said yesterday that the savings made through the liberalization of the medical supply sector are ?like having a check that cannot be cashed.?

The Health Ministry saved an estimated 5.4 million euros in the most recent online competition for contracts for five specific medicines.