Minister seeks to appease doctors

Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday sought to win over protesting state hospital doctors, who are in their second week of strike action, offering them salary increases and the opportunity to join a fast-track process to become directors. In the first parliamentary discussion of a new health sector bill yesterday, Avramopoulos backtracked on a government about-face on a labor contract agreement and edged closer to the original pact that had satisfied doctors in December. The minister put back on the table his original pledge to allow doctors induction to a three-stage assessment procedure that would bump them up to director status. Earlier this month, he had backtracked on this promise, suggesting that it be «frozen» for a year. Avramopoulos also approved salary raises that would bring directors’ monthly salaries to 2,054 euros, unit supervisors’ wages to between 1,468 and 1,759 euros and specialists’ wages to 1,027 euros. The increases are reportedly very close to those demanded by doctors. Unionists had not reacted to the minister’s pledges by late last night, but Avramopoulos’s initiative fueled anger among opposition MPs. Avramopoulos and main opposition PASOK spokesperson Christos Papoutsis traded accusations of hypocrisy. The leader of the parliamentary group of the Coalition of the Radical Left, Alekos Alavanos, accused PASOK of «staging disputes to make up for its lack of political stances.» Avramopoulos, for his part, claimed that the bill being discussed is «a virtual carbon copy of the labor contract signed in December.» Hospital doctors, who today round off a three-day strike, are to convene on Monday to discuss the ministry’s new terms. Meanwhile, many hospitals continued to operate on skeleton staff. At the general hospital of Nikaia, near Piraeus, and at Thessaloniki’s G. Gennimata Hospital doctors blocked the entrances, accepting only really urgent cases. Medical suppliers are continuing with an embargo on hospital deliveries, demanding that millions of euros in outstanding debts be paid.

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