OPINION

Curing the woes of the health sector

The conservative prime minister did not beat around the bush after his visit to the Ministry of Health yesterday. «Significant progress has been made,» Costas Karamanlis said of his administration’s performance in this very crucial sector. «However much still remains to be done,» he added. Without a doubt, the prime minister’s statements echo public sentiment. On the one hand, people appreciate the fact that Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis has done a great job of getting rid of the blight of collapsable cots in hospital corridors – a problem that has plagued Greece’s state clinics for decades. On the other hand, one can only feel frustration with the fact that of a total 490 beds in intensive-care units, 120 are not in use because of staff shortages. Although millions of euros were spent on the equipment, 120 beds are not in use because of the state’s failure to hire the requisite staff. The state is at best hiring out beds in the intensive-care units of private clinics or, at worst, putting people’s lives at risk. We can only welcome Karamanlis’s pledge that he will make every effort to remedy the staff shortages and recruit extra personnel – starting with intensive-care units. The same applies to the premier’s commitment to personally see to the issue of raising the necessary funds to move forward with the social rehabilitation program for patients in psychiatric institutions. The government’s plans enjoy the full support of the public, which hopes that the premier’s latest promises will not get lost in the ocean of government obligations. People never raise an eyebrow over health spending. It’s one thing to hire personnel in the blatantly understaffed health sector and quite another to proceed with thousands of controversial posts in local administrations – mostly political favors. Greeks, most of whom are having trouble dealing with the economic strain of living with the measures imposed to meet the EU eurozone targets, are at least entitled to the basic welfare provisions and quality medical treatment. The government has taken promising steps in this area. People hope that these positive signs are the prologue to further and more significant reforms and not a cause for slackening.