PM’s hotline chat ‘scripted’

A promotional visit to an Athens state health center yesterday backfired on the prime minister when a doctor claimed that Premier Costas Simitis’s supposedly spontaneous chat there with two patients had been scripted. Simitis spoke on the phone with two members of the public during a visit to the Social Security Foundation’s (IKA) new call center in Kallithea along with Labor and Social Security Minister Dimitris Reppas, IKA Director Miltiadis Nektarios and a group of journalists and TV crews. Footage showed the PM discussing IKA services with the callers – who had used IKA’s 184 hotline to arrange doctor’s appointments – and being told «the hotline is very helpful and the [telephonists] most polite.» But by evening, the head of the IKA doctors’ union, Costas Koronaios, said colleagues had told him both callers worked for the company operating the hotline, and that the chat had been prearranged. Government spokesman Christos Protopapas said one of the callers may have been linked with the hotline but stressed that «184 works very well.»