EC warning over hospital supplies

Greece could be hauled before the European Court of Justice and fined for failing to keep to EU-wide rules governing the procurement of medical equipment and supplies, the European Commission said yesterday. Brussels found that Greek taxpayer money is being wasted and that public hospitals are breaking the rules in order to prevent some companies from taking part in tenders to supply goods. According to the Commission’s report, Greece spends 720 million euros a year on disposable products such as surgical thread and medical gloves for 17 state hospitals. Brussels received complaints in 2003 that some public hospitals were rejecting offers from suppliers of medical equipment that bore the CE certification marking, which certifies that a product has met EU consumer safety, health or environmental standards. The CE mark is intended to show that medical equipment is safe to use. Member states are only allowed to exclude such supplies if there are public health concerns or if they are suspected to be forgeries. «The Commission found that the technical specifications in the tender notice were subjective and discriminatory, effectively blocking any supplier of CE-certified medical equipment to enter into a competitive bidding procedure to supply several Greek public hospitals,» Brussels said in a statement yesterday. «Furthermore, the Commission found that, as a result, Greek public hospitals may not have received the best value for money, leading to a waste of taxpayers’ money.» Despite warnings last year, Brussels said, Greece has yet to take any action to remedy the situation. Athens now has two months to comply or else it faces a financial penalty.