Health system creaking

A day after inspectors criticized the state of public hospitals, the health minister yesterday painted a bleak picture of the situation in the country’s health service, saying it owed billions, was suffering from mismanagement and was open to corruption. Nikitas Kaklamanis presented the findings of checks carried out by ministry officials during the 16 months he has been in office and made the shocking admission that he still did not have answers to some of the questions he set out to solve. Investigations, for example, revealed that the number of staff employed by the health system was unclear. He said when the New Democracy government came to power last March, official ministry figures indicated some 48,000 people were employed by the health service. However, after an audit, whose results have yet to be confirmed, Kaklamanis said this figure had been revised to 65,000. This news came just 24 hours after an annual report by state health inspectors identified a shortage of personnel as well as a lack of cleanliness at state hospitals. Hinting at a possible reason for the discrepancy, the minister cited the example of 22 people on the payroll of the health service in Patras. Some of those people were no longer employed there and others never existed in the first place. Kaklamanis said this episode alone had cost the state some 500,000 euros. According to the ministry’s calculations, the debts of state hospitals between 2001 and 2004 amassed to over 3 billion euros, although payment plans had been worked out for some 2.5 billion euros of this total. An inventory of the consumables stored by hospitals found there was no system for keeping records of the items throughout the health system. As a result, Kaklamanis said, officials came across some items expired since 1997 and stockpiles of others that would last for only 10 months. He recommended that no hospital hold more then 20 days’ worth of stock, claiming it would save the state some 150 million euros over the next two years. However, Kaklamanis was attacked by his PASOK shadow, Evangelos Venizelos, who said the minister was in his second year of office and should have confronted the problems by now.

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