Out-of-date supplies and excessive waste

Chaos reigns in the area of medical and pharmaceutical procurements, according to Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis and the ministry’s general secretary Paschalis Bouhoris. Vast quantities of supplies pile up in hospital warehouses for months on end, without any record of their exact amount and sometimes medicines and other supplies that have past their expiration date are sent to hospitals. There are also serious divergences from market prices. In his plan to impose order, the minister has encountered absurdities such as the reduction in the price of materials used for angioplasty in public hospitals and the mass «direction» of patients to private hospitals, where prices remain high. From March 2004 to March 2005, the ministry put pressure on companies supplying stents to drop the price they charged public hospitals for their product from 4,100-7,100 euros (before value-added tax) to 2,500-2,860 euros. These products are still sold at a higher price to private clinics (7,100 euros). Yet the outcome of the price reduction was that a large proportion of the patients who needed the stents were being encouraged to go first to the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center and then to private clinics. At the same time, stents were used in larger numbers. Bouhoris cited the example of a patient given nine stents when two or three or would have been sufficient. The ministry has already negotiated changes to the prices of materials used in osteosynthesis, jaw and facial surgery, artificial kidney filters, pacemakers and other cardiac surgery, and more are to follow. It is also establishing maximum prices for new supplies. In the past 15 months the ministry has inventoried and evaluated supplies held by hospitals. In most cases, this was the first inventory of its kind, and it uncovered an alarming state of affairs, including items with an expiration date of 1997 and excessive overstocking. At the hospital in Rhodes, for instance, there were «excessive orders of X-ray film which was out of date before it could be used,» Kaklamanis said. The ministry’s goal is to impose control on hospital procurements, based on the principle that stock should not exceed requirements for 20 days, a policy which is estimated to be able to save 150 million euros in the first two years.

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