Greece’s troubled health system is in for an overhaul after Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis got the green light yesterday from Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on a draft law which aims at decongesting the country’s hospitals. The bill, which the government hopes to get through Parliament in the first six months of 2006, foresees a system where patients will have a family doctor and the establishment of 24-hour urban health centers can take some of the workload off hospitals. The medical center will act as a first stop for patients, who will only be referred to a hospital if necessary. Residents that currently seek medical assistance at hospitals often come across overflowing emergency wards operating under chaotic conditions that struggle to meet patients’ needs. «This is a draft law which is very big and has a large financial expense,» Kaklamanis said after meeting with Karamanlis. The proposed plan will require some basic structural changes to a poorly designed system which has more than twice the doctors it needs. «One of the issues that needs to be taken care of is that in Greece we do not have the 4,000 family doctors needed,» said Mercouris Bodosakis, the president of the Greek Association of General Practitioners. The new system will give patients the ability to choose a family doctor, therefore rewarding those who offer quality services, Bodosakis added.