Hospital reforms ‘unenforceable’

Hospital doctors yesterday criticized government plans to overhaul the national health service with a slew of reforms, including the operation of daily afternoon surgeries at state hospitals, claiming that the proposed changes are impossible to enforce effectively. «This bill is completely and fundamentally unenforceable,» said Dimitris Varnavas, the president of the Federation of Hospital Doctors’ Unions (OENGE). Varnavas criticized Health Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou for «imagining that country hospitals can manage to operate in the afternoons as well as the mornings with current staffing levels.» According to a statement issued by his union, the aim of the draft bill is to «shift the responsibility of the state and its budget onto state hospitals.» The proposed reforms foresee the all-day operation of state hospitals, with all outpatient clinics, diagnostic centers and surgeries also open in the evenings. 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 is that the cost of 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. In a related development, doctors at the Nikaia General Hospital, near Piraeus, yesterday staged a sit-in at the hospital director’s office to demand back pay and protest shortages of pharmaceuticals, laboratory equipment and other supplies. The Health Ministry’s general secretary, Nikos Polyzos, insisted the order had been issued for outstanding back pay.

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