Suppliers pull plug on hospitals

Some of the biggest hospitals in Athens, such as KAT, Evangelismos and Asclepieio, are due to lose their orthopedic equipment today because of a row between suppliers and the state over mounting debts. The suppliers claim that they are owed in excess of 700 million euros by the state hospitals they equip and the move they have planned for today is the second stage of their protest. The PASYPOY association of firms selling orthopedic equipment announced earlier this month that they were indefinitely halting sales of goods due to the unpaid bills. Some companies claim that they have not been paid for up to three-and-a-half years. PASYPOY said that, on average, its members conduct 93 percent of their trade with state hospitals and clinics. The firms say that they are no longer being lent money by banks and that suppliers from abroad are refusing to give them any more products on credit. The orthopedic equipment firms said that they would be willing to stock hospitals in the case of emergencies but only if they are paid in cash. However, after not seeing the hospitals nor the government respond to their demands, the firms are now taking their action a step further by withdrawing equipment or tools that have not been paid for in full. State hospitals are currently estimated to owe their providers 4.4 billion euros. Of this, some 3 billion is owed to pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile, as of yesterday, Athens and Piraeus pharmacists stopped giving prescription medicines to people who are insured with public sector social security fund OPAD due to outstanding debts. The pharmacists say they have not been paid since April by OPAD even though the agreement signed by both sides requires pharmacies to be paid within 45 days. Meanwhile, 12 doctors’ associations have asked their members to give them the go-ahead to take legal action against OPAD due to a 10-month delay in payments.