Bill to streamline health system

A draft law on the reform of the state health system, outlined yesterday by Health Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, aims to streamline its funding and operation. The bill is expected to be submitted in Parliament in two weeks, upon the conclusion of negotiations between ministry officials and members of trade unions. The reforms foresee the all-day operation of state hospitals with all outpatient clinics, diagnostic centers and surgeries open in the evenings, which is not currently the case. The bill will also oblige all state university doctors operating private clinics to shut them down and see their patients on the premises of the hospital that employs them. Another key change foreseen by the bill is that the cost for medical examinations and other services will be borne by the patient’s social insurance fund, not by the state hospital that the patient visits. Patients will pay for medical services at the hospitals and have their expenses reimbursed by their insurance funds. The hospitals will spend the additional income on operating costs with some of the funds being distributed to other hospitals in the region. The reform also aims to offer qualified doctors incentives – including a 10 percent salary increase – to accept appointments at hospitals in remote areas which are woefully understaffed. The ministry is said to be considering the establishment of citizens’ support units at all state hospitals to provide patients with information and record any complaints. In addition, the ministry plans to trim staff sitting on all state hospital boards of directors as of January 2011. The aim is to cut costs and streamline decision-making. Xenogiannakopoulou said yesterday that her ministry’s efforts to cut costs had already yielded results. In the first four months of this year, state hospital expenses fell by 10 percent compared to the average expenses incurred during the same periods in 2007, 2008 and 2009, she said.