EU help sought for health sector

Greece has asked for assistance from the European Union in its effort to cut costs and improve efficiency in its health sector by enhancing its electronic prescription system, accessing cheaper drugs and hospital supplies and setting up a panel to monitor expenses.

Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos and the head of the EU Task Force for Greece, Horst Reichenbach, discussed how Athens could work with officials from other European countries, as well as Brussels, to make improvements in public healthcare.

?The support of the Task Force is necessary and useful, it will surely play a role in helping us conduct structural reforms,? said Lykourentzos. ?We are determined to work hard to overcome technical difficulties, delays and failures of the past.?

Lykourentzos asked for the EU Task Force to provide technical assistance to the Greek government so it could extend its recently introduced electronic prescription system, designed to stamp out corruption and reduce waste.

The electronic system, which came into operation earlier this year, experienced a number of initial technical problems but the Health Ministry wants to expand its capabilities so it will be possible for various departments and state hospitals to cross-reference prescription and medicine lists.

Last year, state spending on medicines was cut by 1.75 billion euros to 3.8 billion euros but the government is hoping to slash another 800 million euros from the drugs bill this year.

The Greek side was also keen to receive technical assistance in sourcing cheaper drugs and bringing down the cost of spending on medicines. To do this, Lykourentzos asked the Task Force to help Greece access relevant databases in other EU countries. The two sides also discussed setting up a working group that would include officials from the Health and Finance ministries as well as the Task Force to deal with financial issues in the health sector.

The Task Force has been based in Athens since last September and is responsible for helping Greece work with other EU countries to improve its public administration.

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