In critical condition

Adonis Georgiadis, Greece’s conservative minister for health, has announced a reduction of state involvement in the public health sector in a bid to save the country’s troubled clinics and hospitals.

If the state sector is sick, the theory goes, rolling back its frontiers will make the ailment seem less serious.

It’s no doubt a radical way of looking at things, especially when it comes from a politician who has managed to build his career on the back of pompous statements about the homeland, the nation and the need for a strong state.

Georgiadis keeps television ratings up with more than frequent appearances, thanks to his catchy sound bites on everything under the sun, with spectacular antics, and attacks against his enemies on all sides.

As health minister, Georgiadis is in charge of the National Health System at a crucial turning point where public care, both primary and secondary, is at stake.

He is at the helm of the most crucial post of state welfare: that which concerns the lives and health of citizens.

Also, he has to take on an industry dominated by big economic interests and a system corroded by mismanagement and corruption. It’s a mammoth task indeed that is made even more daunting by the nation’s bad finances.

However, Georgiadis appears to have already made his decisions and he is acting in the way that he talks, at super high speed. He has appointed bankrupt politicians as state hospital managers and – in a never-before-seen mix of good-old partisan politics and neoliberalism – he is out to reduce the size of the National Health System.

Cracking down on ineptness, curbing corruption and waste, implementing bold reforms and welfare policies for the weakest members of our society, the unemployed and the uninsured, well, all that can wait he seems to think.

After all, the Greek health sector has always been a mess. If it’s in a sorry state, that is not a result of the crisis. What is important right now is to downsize the state, to deregulate, to privatize moneymaking sectors, to transfer the cost of healthcare to the shoulders of everyone – strong and weak, rich and poor, everyone who anticipates some return for their exorbitant taxes.

This is Greece, as the country’s former Prime Minister Costas Simitis once said.

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