Health Ministry officials are bracing for crucial talks next week with state hospital doctors who are threatening to stage a mass walkout unless authorities approve a collective labor agreement providing for additional hiring and more benefits by November 10. Doctors at the General Hospital in Nikaia announced yesterday that they will stop taking in new patients next week. The only patients who will be admitted will be those «whose physical well-being or lives are immediately at risk,» according to a statement released by doctors after a general meeting yesterday. As for patients currently at the hospital «the process of discharging them is under way,» the statement added. Doctors at the Nikaia hospital spoke to Kathimerini of «dramatic» staff shortages. «If at least 200 people are not hired now the hospital will close,» said Panos Papanikolaou, a resident neurosurgeon. At the moment only five of the hospital’s 12 surgeries are operating, meaning that patients applying for an operation must wait up to three months. Problems are equally acute at the Attikon Hospital, whose doctors yesterday staged a protest outside the Health Ministry in central Athens.