ATHENS – After promising he would make appointments based on merit and stop the kind of runaway patronage that helped bring Greece to the edge of ruin and needing three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($358.9 billion,) Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government has named party supporters as hospital chiefs.
Media reports said his administration, which said the hospital managers would be named on the basis of their performance reviews, had instead used the facilities as a place to put political appointees.
That brought criticism from rival parties of patronage, a practice that Mitsotakis said he would end. Among those named, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki, was an 80-year-old retired educator who will be President of the hospital in Karditsa, replacing an 82 year-old, although it wasn’t said if that had been an appointee by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which packed hospital top jobs with its own.
SYRIZA, which had used the hospitals as places to put its faithful, accused New Democracy of “petty partisan” practice while the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) charged New Democracy with patronage and the paper said even some of the Conservatives lawmakers were upset.
SYRIZA and critical media coverage also pointed to local New Democracy party officials in the prefectures of Arta and Preveza being appointed as the presidents of the local hospitals in those regions. There was no response from Mitsotakis’ office.
The appointments came almost immediately after Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said that hospital directors who do not meet the criteria set by the government in its evaluation procedure would be replaced without receiving compensation.
“If there are any such indications that they are not serving the public interest as we understand it from a scientific perspective, they will absolutely be replaced without compensation,” he told Antenna TV.
“Doctors, nurses and paramedics, but above all patients, vulnerable groups and families … must feel that the state is organized … cares and provides solutions,” he added as the government released a list of newly-appointed hospital directors and deputies who will head the country’s biggest state-run hospitals, with past appointments often being made as political favors to party loyalists in successive governments.
In October, a state health committee started looking over 1,661 applications that were submitted for 111 hospital director posts that the Health Ministry aims to fill as part of its bid to overhaul the leadership of state health facilities.
The committee was charged with cutting the list and giving Kikilias, who would make the final decision, their recommendations but it wasn’t said who got the jobs finally.
The government said it wanted to crack down on financial mismanagement and boost efficiency at state hospitals by making directors subject to reviews on their performance.
The successful candidates will be asked to sign contracts listing 23 goals, including improving economic management and digital governance for regular reviews.
In March, 2017, Greece’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, upheld appeals by hospital directors fired by the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which replaced them with party members who critics said were its political cronies.