OPINION

Our sick healthcare system

I went to see a doctor the other day about a health problem. After examining me, he explained the treatment procedure, which involved a series of regular injections. However, he saved the best for last.

The doctor explained that there are two types of medicine available on the market that can do the job. They are both produced by the same American pharmaceutical company. The one comes relatively cheap, at about 75 euros per shot, while the alternative is flagrantly expensive, with each injection costing some 1,500 euros.

Ninety percent of doctors in the United States apparently prescribe the cheap version. In Greece, it?s the other way round. In fact, as I would soon find out, if you happen to suffer from this rather common illness, Greece?s social security funds will only pay for the expensive treatment. My doctor, a young man who respects his profession and who also appears to care about this country, told me, ?It will cost you a bit more, but it will make me feel better about myself if I prescribe the cheaper drug.?

This, I guess, is a small piece in the much bigger puzzle of maladministration and corruption that sent public health spending through the roof. Listening to the alarmist allegations coming from certain health sector unionists (hopefully a small minority), who claim to be interested in public health, can be quite frustrating. Despite a lot of investigative reporting in the subject, we seem to have missed the damage done at the expense of the Greek people.

Lots of people were able to feed off the public procurement system over the years. They benefited from the purchase of everything from arms to medicines. Dodgy lobbies worked behind the scenes bribing politicians, state functionaries and anyone who was of use. Foreign firms came along often bragging that ?Greece is Europe?s most profitable market.? It?s quite hypocritical when our foreign peers say they had no idea what was going on.

The worst thing is that seriously ill people are now paying the price for having to streamline a bankrupt system. When I see people waiting for weeks to get approval for a cancer treatment, I can?t help but think that they are being punished for the accumulated machinations and sins of those who are now revolting against the reforms in the health sector.