Do or die in state hospital reform

Health Minister Andreas Loverdos has given himself six months to see through a major overhaul of the way that public hospitals are run, including the introduction of proper accounting methods and the keeping of computerized records, or he could quit the post to which he was assigned only last month. Loverdos, who was shifted from the Labor Ministry, where he oversaw pension reforms, told a parliamentary social affairs committee yesterday that he is determined to ensure that three key changes are made to the way that the 30 biggest state hospitals are run. The changes foresee the hospitals keeping proper accounting books, which would involve them recording what money is spent, not just what cash they receive from the state, as is the case at 26 of the 30 hospitals at the moment. Another reform would lead to computers being installed at all the hospitals so that all records are kept in digital form. Finally, Loverdos wants an audit of all the hospitals’ assets. «I want to make it clear that there is no way that a health minister can remain in his position if these changes do not materialize in the next six months,» Loverdos told the committee, adding that the government had made a commitment to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund that it would have computerized records at all its hospitals by December. One of the main aims of the reforms will be to help central government keep control of expenditure at state hospitals. Loverdos said that the government could no longer allow 12.5 billion euros to be spent on public health each year without knowing how hospitals are spending their share and not being able to ensure that it is not wasted. «The system whereby hospitals get their supplies through a central system needs some improvement as well so that it operates smoothly and is beyond suspicion,» said the minister. «If we cannot get this right, then we should not be taking anymore of the taxpayers’ money.» Loverdos said that it is also the government’s aim to pay hospital suppliers on time as of January next year and not allow debts to build up. This would allow the hospitals to negotiate better prices with their suppliers, the minister added.

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