NEWS

Hospital spending under watch

Significant changes in the way state hospitals buy their medical supplies are to be brought in, the government said yesterday, to stamp out corruption and to ensure that their 3-billion-euro debt does not grow any further. Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis said yesterday that the ruling conservatives would unveil a draft law next month which would attempt to bring some order to the way state hospitals obtain their supplies and avoid the creation of stockpiles of equipment. «It would be shameful if the Health Ministry could not fix the issue of supplies,» said Kaklamanis. «Not so that it will be heavenly but at least so it is more healthy.» The minister said that through harder bargaining and the renegotiation of contracts with suppliers, some 250 million euros has been saved in the last year. Kaklamanis wants Greek hospitals to stop paying too much for equipment so there will be even more savings. He argued that in the most extreme cases, hospitals in Greece and social security funds were paying up to 1,500 percent more than they should be for some medical supplies. Kaklamanis said that it cost 26,235 euros to buy a pacemaker in Greece, whereas the same equipment cost almost 11,000 euros less in France. The minister said intermediary companies were largely to blame for higher prices. Suppliers, however, constantly point to the fact that state hospitals in Greece are notoriously slow in paying their bills and this cost has to be factored into the prices they charge. State hospitals currently owe over 3 billion euros. Payment plans have been set up for 2.5 billion euros of this debt. The draft bill, which is to be submitted to Parliament in January, will call for the creation of a central program to control hospital supplies. An annual list of approved suppliers will be drawn up by the Health Ministry. A study is also under way that could lead to the creation of several state-run warehouses where medical supplies for hospitals will be kept. Hospitals will take their supplies from the warehouses, which will keep up to three weeks’ worth of supplies. Hospitals will only maintain up to three days’ worth of stock.