OPINION

Duty-roster system and vested interests

Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis yesterday hit back at remarks aiming to discredit the clinics’ new duty-roster system. «The ESY (the local acronym for Greece’s National Health System) will become people-centered. Those few big-name doctors and some professional unionists will either have to comply (with the changes) or else will force themselves out of the system… Some of my colleagues behave as if the ESY were their own private clinic… Whether a small minority wants it or not, the system is built to serve the needs of ordinary people and not of the big-name doctors,» Kaklamanis stressed. No one is arguing that the new duty-roster system has cured the ills plaguing the health sector. However, even skeptics acknowledge that the number of gurneys, used to accommodate extra patients in hospital corridors, has been reduced. At some major clinics, the number has dropped by up to 90 percent. As a result, criticism of the new emergency duty system and the health minister by the Association of Hospital Doctors in Athens and Piraeus (POEDIN) and the Federation of Hospital Workers (EINAP) – which is repeated by some of the opposition media – has made a bad impression, generating suspicion over their ulterior motives. Without doubt, some groups are reacting to what they see as an assault on their vested interests. The new duty-roster system is also expected to affect some of the workers in provincial hospitals, some of whom show little interest in contributing to the common good, and had comfortably settled in a freer system. In some cases, the lack of emergency duties is seen as an opportunity to maintain side-jobs. Everyone has to get used to the idea that all hospitals will soon have to be on emergency duty on a daily basis, as happens in every other civilized state. The public, many of whom have first-hand experience with dysfunctional hospitals, have expressed their full support for the minister’s efforts. That, however, is not enough. Kaklamanis will also need economic support from the government. Greece’s hospitals are seriously understaffed. Quite astonishingly, the number of doctors to patients is five times greater in Sweden and eight times in the Netherlands. The government must take action and begin by recruiting much-needed staff. If it really aspires to reform the health sector it must do away with the current, stifling legal framework for staff recruitment.