Greece: Healthcare problems, operations and medicine cuts

Pharmacists to be paid at end of the month

15 June, 20:20

(ANSAmed) - ATHENS, JUNE 15 - Greek healthcare, which was not exactly a model of efficiency even before the crisis, can no longer hold up to the strain: cuts to medicine supplies, restrictions on non-essential operations, healthcare materials becoming scarce and doctors struggling to cover their shifts.

This is a brief glimpse of a healthcare system which not only has to deal with economic difficulties affecting the entire Greek society, but also a freeze on the few available funds due to political deadlock. The crisis of Greek public finance has prompted large pharmaceutical producers to draw up plans in order to prevent an interruption in supplies if Greece should go bankrupt and leave the eurozone, with a resulting, devalued drachma.

In any case, some good news did come in today: by June 25 the Greek national healthcare service EOPYY will have paid off what it owes pharmacie, the radio station SKAI was told by EOPYY chairman Gerasimos Voudouris. Over the past few months, the suspension of medicine on credit to beneficiaries by pharmacies (which are owed some 762 million euros, and which have repeatedly staged forms of protest) has also given rise to problems regarding tourism, since many foreigners have called off trips to Greece out of concern that if they were to suffer health problems they would not be able to buy any medication to treat them. The Greek healthcare system (where it is common practice to slip a few bribes - 'fakelakia' in Greek - to personnel to ensure good treatment) had until the crisis still been ''generous'' enough to welcome in all, despite widespread problems with its administration and the almost exclusively political appointments at the managerial level of the 133 public hospitals. Now many ill people are at risk of losing their lives, since the lack of funds is affecting healthcare services. In Chaidari (Athens suburb), hospital personnel report a lack of cotton, catheters, gloves and paper sheets to cover operating tables: and so the latter are reused, with serious risks for the resulting hygienic conditions. Meanwhile, examinations are growing shorter, since the lines are longer and doctors are forced to take on ever more gruelingly long hours. And some may not get the care they need in the time they need, or not be examined with the necessary care for a correct diagnosis. IMF recommendations are partially to blame for this: healthcare spending must remain under 6%, compared with the current 10%.

And how to do it involves not spending as much on medications, the costs of which have risen steadily over the past decade. The IMF claims it is necessary to cut 2 billion euros from the amount spent in 2010. Those critical of this hard-line stance say that lacking overall reform of the healthcare system, these cuts will only mean less medicine for those who need it. And amid the crisis and surging unemployment levels, many are not even able to pay the contribution required of them (which has risen to 20% of the cost of the medicine). Yet once more the Greek crisis has shown its true face: not the figures which remain at the abstract level in terms of finances and debt, but the real-life suffering of those who (the vast majority) are in no way to blame for the crisis but are being hit hard by it.



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