One of the first positive results of the new system of afternoon surgeries in hospitals are shorter queues, said Health and Social Security Minister Alekos Papadopoulos at a press conference last Wednesday. And he vowed that the improvement in health services would become more pronounced in the future. At the press conference, he informed reporters of the progress of the reforms since January 28, when they were introduced, and replied to critics of the measures that afternoon surgeries «beyond all expectations, have begun to function and find their place in the system.» Already, 13,483 appointments have been made at 90 hospitals, out of the 130 in which afternoon surgeries will be held, while 3,251 doctors have agreed to participate. In certain hospitals, said the health minister, afternoon visits have shortened queues considerably. For instance, waiting times for CT X-rays at Larissa regional hospital have been reduced by three weeks, while at the Venizeleio hospital in Iraklion, waiting times went down from 30 days to 18. And as of next Monday, hormone test results at Iraklion university hospital will be given to patients within 24 hours; before the advent of the new system, patients had to wait 15 days. Papadopoulos also presented the draft ministerial decree on the organization and operation of autonomous emergency departments. The ministry hopes to deal with «a system of organized disorganization» and to crack down on abuse of proper entry procedures. The new emergency departments will commence operation during 2002 in 14 Athens and Thessaloniki hospitals. In the future, the current system of rotating duty hospitals will be changed, so that 350-450 patients will be dealt with by emergency departments each day, as opposed to the 800-1,600 patients that attend a hospital on duty at present. On entering the emergency department, the patient will be dealt with by a doctor or nurse who will send him on to the relevant department services, their decision depending on the severity of his or her condition. The patient will no longer be moved from one medical facility to another but will be examined in the same area by as many doctors as are needed. Emergency departments will be open 24 hours a day, except in the first phase, when they will be open round the clock only on days when that particular hospital is on duty. Permanent medical staff, trained nurses and administrators will man the emergency departments.Hospital doctors will fill in for them until they have been found and hired.