Doctors now raising the stakes

The decision by private doctors to suspend their contracts with all state social security funds as of December 15 will mean that a large segment of the working population will have to pay for their visits to doctors and then apply for their money to be refunded. The doctors, who made their decision public yesterday, are protesting the failure of the funds to pay them for their services to beneficiaries for the past 10 months. «The increasingly long delays in payment from the social security funds have exhausted the limits of our tolerance and endurance,» Georgios Potamitis, the president of the Panhellenic Federation of Private Healthcare Unions (POSIPY), told Kathimerini. According to Potamitis, the funds owe doctors some 1.5 billion euros for services rendered. «For many private doctors, the payments received from the Civil Servants’ Fund (OPAD) constitute a major part of their income while for many it is their sole source of income,» according to Manolis Kalokairinos, president of the Greek Medical Association. For the past week citizens insured with OPAD have been paying for their medicines after pharmacists in Athens and Piraeus stopped giving out prescription drugs due to OPAD’s failure to settle debts dating back to April. Pharmacies across the country are to remain closed tomorrow as the Panhellenic Association of Pharmacists protests outstanding payments. In a related development yesterday, US Ambassador in Athens Daniel Speckhard called on Greek authorities to settle outstanding payments owed to US pharmaceutical manufacturers or risk losing them as suppliers. «If the Greek government has not made payment to clear a significant part of its debts, there is a risk of these procurements being terminated,» Speckhard told Kathimerini. Addressing a conference on innovation in medicine organized by the Economist earlier yesterday, Speckhard said that some suppliers are thinking, «We cannot continue to supply products without getting paid.» According to statistics presented during the conference by the US ambassador, the Greek state owes US pharmaceutical companies a total of 4 billion dollars – 3 billion dollars for the provision of pharmaceuticals and 1 billion dollars for the provision of other medical supplies.