NEWS

Nikaia General State Hospital holds the record

The situation with hospital supplies was out of control last year, as many hospitals opted for making direct orders and contract extensions, in effect breaching the new law concerning hospital supply orders. Hospitals’ debts to suppliers have mounted to one billion euros, some of which are from direct orders. According to the Health Ministry’s supply directorate, by the end of 2002 the total cost of direct orders reached 41.8 million euros. The situation was similar in 2001, when the Health Ministry, by means of Article 15 of law 2955, legalized all illegal contracts in order to settle debts. The condition was that all illegal contracts had to expire by December 31, 2001. However, the brief period of time – two months – between the time the law came into effect and the deadline itself, was a cause – indeed, in some cases, a motive – to leave tenders incomplete. Thus, hospital administrators moved straight on to direct orders, claiming that it was the way to make hospitals function more smoothly. In 2002 in particular, direct orders seem to have been common practice in many hospitals, despite directives issued by the ministry that they must call for tenders. The most striking example is that of the Nikaia General State Hospital. The hospital’s total expenditure for medical supplies in 2002 reached 30 million euros, of which 16.9 million – over 50 percent – was for extra-contractual purchases. Also in 2002, the Hadzicostas Hospital in Ioannina signed for 3.2 million euros’ worth of extra-contractual supplies. The main cause of this phenomenon, according to a letter from the PESY branch in Epirus dated December 2002, was that all the hospital’s contracts expired before the end of 2001. All tenders, therefore, had to be repeated in 2002, and this meant that at best, several months would slip by during which the hospital would have to function with extra-contractual supply agreements. Another example is the case of the University Hospital in Iraklion, Crete. During 2002 the cost of its medical supplies via direct contract reached 20 million euros as the approval of tenders was delayed and the administrators were forced to order supplies directly in order to ensure the hospital functioned smoothly. Blocked by the auditors There are a number of cases in which the settlement of debts toward suppliers was blocked by the State Audit Council, which considers the contracts illegal and therefore does not recognize payment orders. Hospitals themselves admit to this problem: The director of the Laiko Hospital, in a letter to the First Attica PESY dated March 6, 2003, warns of an impending, huge problem concerning debt payments, since the hospital was placing orders in April 2002 and the commissioner has already stated her intention of not approving any of these costs. In April 2003 the Third Attica PESY filed a report to the Health Ministry stating, «There is a complication regarding the legality of payment orders from the Thriasio Hospital for 56,000 euros (for the supply of a car, books, magazines and newspapers) following a decision by the members of the State Audit Council.» Former Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos had warned the presidents of the country’s PESY of the problem that would arise from delaying tenders. Specifically, a letter from Papadopoulos of November 2001 giving directives on the manner in which supplies should be handled, noted, «The slightest delay will lead to impasses without viable solutions, and this must be understood by all administrative staff, from the presidents of the PESY and hospital administrators, to the staff responsible.»