Therapy for healthcare

A plan that proposes a drastic change in the way primary healthcare works in Greece and calls for the appointment of 4,000 more doctors was given the government’s backing yesterday but left the opposition wondering where the money to pay for it will come from. The scheme was approved by the Inner Cabinet yesterday and is likely to be submitted to Parliament in the next six months. It proposes the creation of urban health centers around Greece and the introduction of family doctors so patients will not need to visit a hospital unless necessary. Under the plan, presented by Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis and Labor and Social Security Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, 18 health centers are to be built in Attica, seven in Thessaloniki and at least one in the capital of each of the country’s 54 prefectures. The centers will act as filters to prevent Greece’s already overcrowded hospitals from clogging up with patients, many of whom do not need to be there. Under the plans, family doctors will be general practitioners who will act as the first point of contact between the patient and the health system. Kaklamanis said that for these plans to work, there would need to be a pool of some 6,000 general practitioners whereas there are less than 2,500 working now. The minister said it would take around 10 years for this shortfall to be covered by medical graduates with four-year degrees. In order to make up for the shortages in personnel and infrastructure in the National Health System (ESY), the plan proposes that the health system for patients insured with IKA, the main social security fund, as well as other smaller funds be brought under the ESY umbrella. This would lead to a major shakeup of the way healthcare is provided in Greece. This ambitious plan, however, was blasted by the opposition parties yesterday. PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos labeled it an «indefinite wish list» and said there had been no money set aside in the government’s budget to fund the scheme. Synaspismos Left Coalition also called the plans «incomplete.» Both parties suggested that the scheme was Kaklamanis’s ministerial swan song as speculation mounts that he will leave the government and become a candidate for mayor of Athens if Dora Bakoyannis takes up a post in the Cabinet after a possible reshuffle.

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