Pre-operative nerves

The months-long war between Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos and university doctors who have chosen to work in private practice rather than the National Health System (ESY) is expected to come to a head today. Many doctors who are on the faculty of Athens University’s medical school have scheduled operations today in hospitals that are part of the National Health System, but the health minister yesterday sent a message to hospital managers and regional administrators instructing them to allow only doctors belonging to the National Health System to return to them. Papadopoulos warned that doctors who chose to leave state run hospitals while continuing to teach at the university would be breaking the law if they carried out operations. «Any unsolicited entry and disturbance of the smooth functioning of the hospital constitutes an illegal act and carries all the relative consequences,» his circular said. But the problem is that many hospitals in the state system also double as university teaching hospitals. Therefore, university doctors who responded to Papadopoulos’s ultimatum last year – to choose between working in the state system or at private hospitals (rather than at both, as well as at the university) – by choosing private practice, felt that they could go back to state hospitals as professors. Athens University Principal Giorgos Babiniotis stressed that they had the right to do this, seeing as there are no purely university hospitals. «The university doctors who are not allowed to enter surgeries have said that they will not be part of the National Health System because of the extra demands that this conveys, but they have not turned their back on their capacity as teachers,» Babiniotis told Kathimerini. «The university supports the right of university doctors to carry out their research in university clinics. Our decision is that university doctors who are members of a university clinic… will have the related clinical activity,» he said. Babiniotis stressed that if any threat arises to the university’s autonomy (which is guarded by the constitution), «we will seek legal recourse.» Babiniotis noted that a hospital administrator had no right to hire or replace a member of the medical faculty. «Perhaps the time has finally come for the education minister to specify where the university doctors will carry out their teaching activities. Our position has been the creation of purely university hospitals, under university administration. Until then, it is unfortunate that university doctors are working in ESY hospitals,» he said.

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