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Society

Greek Doctors Balk at Low-Paying Family Physician Scheme

February 12, 2018

ATHENS – Citing “humiliating” offers of low pay and working conditions, Greek doctors are avoiding an EOPYY national healthcare scheme aimed at filling hundred of positions around the country as family doctors to provide primary healthcare to the insured.

An extension of offers was set to expire Feb. 12 with few takers during an ongoing economic crisis that has seen the healthcare budget taking repeated whacks while the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, breaking promises, is hiring friends and cronies to cozy, high-paying jobs, with no indication they even have to show up.

The Healthy Ministry plan has been scorned and avoided by most of the country’s medical associations, which dismiss the contracts EOPYY, said Kathimerini, with the doctors demanding collective contracts instead that will safeguard higher salaries and more favorable terms.

Greek doctors, lower paid than many middle managers in government jobs, often go unpaid for weeks or months and have to work forced grueling hours at public hospitals which are understaffed and have so little equipment patients have to bring their own toilet paper and hire private nurses.

The situation got so bad that in May, 2017, the Health Ministry set a maximum 12-hour shift for them at state hospitals where some said they were on duty up to 30 hours or more.

That would have brought Greek law into alignment with European legislation that sets a 48-hour limit on the amount of work done by doctors per week at the hospitals as Greece continued to see thousands of doctors fleeing to other countries in search of better pay and conditions.

The European Court of Justice found Greece to have violated European Union laws by letting doctors work excessively long hours without proper rest but EU laws are frequently ignored or violated by Greece with no consequences.

That came two months after the Panellenic Medical Association (PIS) said budget cuts so weakened Greece’s health care system that it was ready to collapse.

PIS President Michail Vlastarakos said there were chronic shortages in staff and equipment at public hospitals around the country due to limited finances, and disruptions in the primary healthcare system.

The association said the system hasn’t broken down yet only because doctors, who are paid far less than political appointees in government and often aren’t paid for months, are perservering with their profession.

But he said they are getting weary and can’t keep it going in the face of more cuts from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that promised to help the country’s most vulnerable but who have made cuts to essential services.

“The average age of ESY doctors is 60. And these people will be leaving in a few years,” said Vlastarakos, adding that public hospitals need 6,500 additional permanent medical staff.
There’s also a serious shortage of doctors and staff, some of whom have to wait weeks or more to get paid at the same time Tsipras is hiring his friends as Special Advisers at 2,000 euros ($2231) a month, twice what most doctors get when they’re paid.

The hospitals have antiquated medical machines that are frequently out of order, while patients are frequently forced to wait at least six weeks to get an x-ray, the Federation of Public Hospital Workers (POEDIN) said in a report, warning that the Health Ministry is destroying the National Health System (ESY).

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