Doctors, pharmacists protest

Doctors working for the country?s largest healthcare provider on Monday joined pharmacists in protest action aimed at ramping up pressure on the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) to settle its arrears. This means that for the rest of the week at least, thousands of patients will have to pay for prescription medicines and may have to wait until next week to see a doctor.

The Athens Medical Association (AMA) on Monday called on doctors working for EOPYY to cut back their hours this week, with 93 percent of their members responding. Hospital doctors have also said that they will join the action if the government proceeds with a reduction in their salaries and on Monday announced a strike for Tuesday, starting at 11 a.m. and running until the end of the morning shift.

Doctors working for EOPYY are demanding that the organization provide them with an exact timetable for the settlement of past debts worth 570 million euros and the instant payment of 230 million euros in debts accrued through June this year. They are also pushing for a binding provision that henceforth all new arrears will be paid within a period of 45 days.

Pharmacists, for their part, have stopped dispensing medicines on credit to patients insured with EOPYY since Saturday, a tactic used in the past to put pressure on the organization to pay up.

Union representatives met on Monday with Alternate Health Minister Marios Salmas to break the deadlock, which arises from a combination of EOPYY failing to pay pharmacists for prescriptions on time and pharmacists being unable to purchase drugs on credit from suppliers. Salmas said the ministry would take steps for pharmacies to be extended credit of 90 days on purchases. If necessary, he said, a mechanism would be set up within EOPYY to oversee supplies to pharmacies. Salmas added that pharmacies will be paid their arrears for May and June within the month. As far as older debts are concerned, he said that these would be settled if and when Greece receives the next tranche of funding from its creditors.

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