A first attempt was made yesterday to reduce the debts that have been crippling the National Health System, which has prompted some suppliers to stop providing goods to state hospitals. Following a meeting between Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and representatives of companies that sell orthopedic equipment to hospitals, it was agreed that the firms would stop their embargo on supplying equipment in return for guarantees about payment. Avramopoulos said that the companies would be paid 30 percent of the money they are owed by next month and that the remaining amount would be covered by two separate payments at the start of next year. The suppliers took the radical action after claiming that they were owed in excess of 700 million euros by state hospitals. State hospitals are currently estimated to owe their providers 4.4 billion euros. Of this, some 3 billion is owed to pharmaceutical companies. There was no breakthrough yesterday between the government and pharmacists who this week stopped providing medicines to civil servants on prescription due to outstanding debts, which are said to stand at 140 million euros.