Striving for transparency

In his first interview, newly appointed Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that the «state of many hospitals is unacceptable, Third World and a disgrace.» I left journalists and anyone else who was concerned a small volume detailing my actions, which can be measured and checked. As a politician, I have always been interested, hearing not what the petty party world says but what ordinary people have to say. As for my term at the ministry, people have spoken of it more positively than I deserved. In general, I never comment on statements by my colleagues. My political forebear was Evangelos Averoff, who once said, «If you ever become a minister, you’ll spend 50 percent of your time working, 30 percent listening to those who say useful but not pleasing things, and only 20 percent talking.» Are you hinting that the present health minister is not following this advice? I don’t know. Avramopoulos has already asked for the resignations of some hospital directors whom you presumably appointed. It is not necessarily bad for a minister to choose his close colleagues – and hospital directors are close colleagues. But as a minister, you must first acquire a personal opinion as to whether they are worthwhile and whether you can work with them. You cannot form such an opinion in a month. Patients’ meals Another step your successor took, which you described as scandalous, was to cancel the hospital meals contract you signed. There is absolutely no contract. I signed an approval to call an international competition so that there would at last be complete transparency in the supply and provision of hospital meals. An EU directive stipulates that all places which cater for large numbers must meet strict conditions by January 1, 2006. For 10 years, there has been no related legislation, so all hospitals were operating illegally, without any monitoring. That is why we passed Article 13 of Law 3329/2005, which makes provision for the international competition I mentioned. It will be a scandal if this plan does not go ahead because, apart from ensuring food quality, it will put an end to the waste of funds for hospital meals.