After repeated appeals by regular ferry users over a number of years, the government said yesterday that it would pay for a doctor to be placed on board every ship conducting routes to and from Greek islands, from this summer. «The government is concerned about the safety of passengers and we think that the presence of a doctor will help in the immediate and better provision of first aid,» said Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis who unveiled the measure yesterday with Deputy Health Minister Thanassis Yiannopoulos. The two ministries will cover the cost of putting a doctor on board ships traveling between islands as well as to and from the mainland. Ferries sailing between Patras and Italy will also benefit from the scheme. The doctors will be drawn from regional health centers. Islanders and frequent users of the ferry network had been pressing for such a move for several decades but a major sticking point until now had been that ferry companies were not willing to pay to have a doctor on board permanently.