2.5-billion-euro hospital debt must be paid for Parliament to take up draft bill on payments

By the end of the month, the process of paying hospital debts to suppliers – which was included in the Economy Ministry’s latest legislation – will be complete. The Health Ministry has issued orders to all hospitals in Greece, as settlement of their debts is a prerequisite for tabling the draft bill on a new method of procurements for hospitals. The draft bill will be presented for public discussion this fall, the minister said Tuesday. Payment orders Speaking to the press Tuesday, Bouhoris said hospital debt exceeded 3 billion euros by the end of 2004. Of that, the debts to be settled represent about 2.5 billion euros, and so far the Economy Ministry has allocated 1.8 billion euros, while another 400 million euros are in the pipeline. By July 20, hospitals had issued payment orders for debts of 2.067 billion euros (78 percent of the debts to be settled). The decision of the Health Ministry to act as an intermediary between the Economy Ministry and suppliers in order to settle the debts has brought the state savings of 115-130 million euros. According to Bouhoris, the precise amount of the debts has not yet been determined, mainly because of «regrettably» poor accounting services at the hospitals and by the ministry in the past. In its attempt to settle the debts, the ministry made a definitive registry of all hospitals in Greece and a database of hospitals and the 887 suppliers involved in the debt settlement. Meanwhile, the ministry is also working on a new fast payment system for hospital debts. Currently hospitals have to wait for the money due to them from insurance funds before paying debts. Three methods are under discussion: Debts can be paid directly by the Economy Ministry, regional health directorates, or by a single agency created by the Health Ministry. In order to curb spending, the ministry is considering costing all medical procedures, even the cheapest ones. It also plans to re-estimate existing expenses, so that the charge at least coincides with the cost of the materials used in each procedure.

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