Healthcare services are getting better all the time, says Stefanis

1. The problem of waiting lists is not a Greek one. Depending on their own particular system, all European states, the USA and even Canada, with a health system that is a model for the whole world, face the same problem: in some places less, in some places more. The problem here is basically confined to Attica, and only for certain examinations and interventions. With the promotion of institutional initiatives that we took in the last few years – administrative and organizational decentralization, the construction of large hospitals in the regions, implementation of a unified system of primary healthcare following legislation passed in Parliament – we will shorten waiting times considerably. The installation of integrated information systems in hospitals, which is in progress, will also play a major role. 2. I don’t believe that we should generalize from the behavior of a minority of medical or other hospital personnel. On the contrary, I hold the view that the great majority of workers in the field of health, despite the fact that pay does not match the importance and quality of the work they do, possess a strong sense of social responsibility and do not engage in such conduct. However, now that our country has achieved economic stability and a high growth rate, it will go ahead with pay rises, as well as uphold ethics more consistently and impose corresponding sanctions. As you will have observed over the last few months, in most hospitals, boards have been hung up or leaflets distributed that have the obligations and rights of patients on them. These include the obligation to lodge a complaint about such unacceptable behavior, especially if demands for money are involved, as you suggested in your question. 3. The issue of patients being put in hospital beds in the corridors has become the opposition’s rallying cry and has been aggravated by its overexposure by the mass media. Of course, it needs to be dealt with effectively, so that at least on the day after the hospital was on emergency duty, there is no one in the corridors. We are making intense efforts to this end, which, however, are coming up against the inherent problems in the sector (the ineffective filter of primary healthcare units) and the fact that in almost all of Attica’s hospitals there are works ongoing to extend and refit the buildings (e.g. the Emergency Department at Evangelismos Hospital), which have further restricted bed availability. The phenomenon exists only in the large hospitals of Attica, to which two-fifths of all patients flock. However, with increased take-up of unmanned positions at the regional hospitals and a series of organizational measures on the distribution of emergency-duty cases, we hope that this phenomenon will soon noticeably recede, to vanish within the next few months. 4. Distribution of medical staff is a problem with many sides, due to the peculiarities, geographical and other, of this country. It is not feasible, however, for every hospital to have all the specializations, such as a neurosurgical clinic that will carry out one operation every six months. On the other hand, there are specializations, pediatrics, for instance, which are essential, and supply in certain areas, like the islands, is such that it doesn’t meet needs despite additional incentives. For this reason, the recent law 3209/24.12.2003 provides for contracts, in these cases, with doctors from the private sector as well. 5. The greatest proportion of private spending on health is on dental care, followed by services by private doctors and diagnostic clinics. These, all together, account for 65 percent of overall private spending on health. By contrast, private spending on hospital treatment is at extremely low levels (about 15 percent), and a large part of that is accounted for by private maternity services. Private spending on health is not the product of the automatic replacement of state health services, but is to a great extent a consumer choice, which aims at reducing time costs and seeks better services from the point of view of hospital care. But let’s not forget that the 44 percent is not a figure that came up today, as many people claim. It has a long history, with percentages peaking at 50 percent in 1994. 6. Over the past 10 years, expenditure on health and welfare has increased steadily. This year’s increase was 8.5 percent. Of course, we don’t declare great enthusiasm, but I assure you that this percentage of increase is sufficient for us to continue with the same decisiveness and the same zeal, in order to make daily improvements in the task we have carried out until now. This year’s conjuncture of circumstances, with fiscal restrictions, is such that we cannot cultivate too many expectations. These restrictions are a growing phenomenon in Europe, as shown by the recent measures in Germany.