Health costs targeted

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to personally oversee a new interministerial committee – bringing together the economy, health and employment ministries – which aims to drastically curb wasteful spending in the health sector, it was revealed yesterday. «The main priority of the committee will be transparency as well as greater efficiency and an improved control of spending so that Greek taxpayers’ money is not wasted,» Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told reporters outside the Maximos Mansion after a briefing with Karamanlis and the other ministers. Hospitals and social security funds will be obliged to submit their budgets and balance sheets to the committee for inspection, Alogoskoufis explained, adding that business plans would also be subject to regular checks. According to sources, this inspection role may be undertaken by the Economy Ministry’s special secretariat for utilities until a separate secretariat is established to do the job. Reforms detailing the powers of the interministerial committee and the secretariat that will run the aforementioned checks are to be tabled in Parliament soon. Yesterday’s initiative follows growing pressure from Alogoskoufis for a crackdown on the health sector, rife with overspending that has made a large dent in the national budget. The fact that the two other ministers – Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia – made less detailed comments fueled speculation that Alogoskoufis will play a leading role. «We are determined to overcome this lack of transparency that we have inherited from the past,» Avramopoulos said, an oblique reference to the shady transactions believed to be crippling the health sector. There have been repeated allegations of medical suppliers colluding with doctors to secure larger-than-necessary orders. Avramopoulos added that 6,500 extra nurses had been hired to bolster the understaffed sector and that 6,000 more will be hired this fall. Petralia said a key aim of the initiative was to improve the quality of healthcare to all insured citizens.