Patience runs low in health row

As government officials sought to avert an escalation of the crisis in the healthcare sector, a group of pensioners in Thessaloniki gathered outside the local branch of the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) and cooked a pot of gruel over a gas fire, reviving a common scene from Nazi-occupied Greece.

?We made this occupation-era dish as a symbol, as a protest,? the head of the union representing pensioners of the IKA Social Security Foundation said. ?It is the fifth time our pensions are being slashed. They are cutting medicines and doctors. We can?t take anymore,? he said in reference to a new round of austerity measures expected to be imposed by the government.

Meanwhile in Athens, Alternate Health Minister Marios Salmas expressed his exasperation with the country?s pharmacists, who have been refusing to fulfill EOPPY prescriptions since the weekend in protest at unpaid arrears, as the ministry grapples to find the funding necessary to settle the bulk of its current debt.

Salmas said that pharmacists would be paid the arrears for the month of May at once, and that the ministry will present them with a payment plan for the rest of the amount due either Friday or Saturday. ?This is an honest and honorable stance, in view of the trials the country is undergoing,? Salmas said.

The head of the EOPYY, Gerasimos Voudouris, also called on pharmacists to dial down their protest, provoking a reaction from the Athens Pharmacists? Union, which accused the government of using the payment of debts due for the month of May to eclipse the bigger issue of some 350 million euros that EOPPY is owed from other healthcare providers that were put under its umbrella in the merger of social security funds.

Pharmacists are not alone in turning up the pressure on the government to find a solution for the cash-strapped healthcare sector, as hospital doctors Thursday announced a 24-hour strike for September 12 after holding a half-day work stoppage this week, specialist and resident doctors said they will launch go-slow action as of September 17, and hospital suppliers said that as of September 11, they will stop extending credit.

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