Call to tighten checks on medics

The Athens Medical Association (AMA) has called for changes to rules regulating the credentials of health professionals after an Athens heart surgeon was found performing surgery for more than 20 years with forged qualifications. The director of Athens’s Ippocrateio Hospital’s heart surgery unit will face a prosecutor after a report by health inspectors claimed that he had been operating for years with forged professional qualifications and despite a high rate of patient mortality. The alleged fraudster received his post after submitting two fake certificates of surgical competence. Sotiris Rigakis, head of the Athens Medical Association (AMA), told Kathimerini the incident shows that there are holes in the system. «Even when there is an assessment, I don’t know how essential it is,» he said. Membership in medical associations is an administrative task, while checks on accreditation and specialities is conducted by prefectures and the Health Ministry. Appearing on state television, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said his services had completed their own investigation into the case and a prosecutor was now in charge. «The justice department has now taken over,» said Avramopoulos. «All such cases will be stamped out.» According to the inspector’s report, 25 percent of patients operated on by the suspect in the year 2000 died, as did 24 percent of his patients in 2001 and 17 percent in 2002. According to reports, the suspect has been operating for more than 20 years without the necessary diplomas. Relatives of some of the patients who died after undergoing surgery under the suspect’s supervision had pressed charges in the past but the alleged fraudster reportedly was acquitted each time.