Pharmacists to decide on boycott

Greek pharmacists are set to announce on Wednesday whether they will lift their boycott of the debt-wracked country’s largest healthcare fund.

Representatives of the country’s main pharmaceutical associations are meeting Wednesday to decide whether they will resume credit to patients insured with the National Organization for Healthcare Provision, known as EOPYY -- which represents more than 9 million of the country’s 11 million people.

Pharmacists froze credit to the fund last month in protest at the government’s refusal to settle EOPYY’s debts. The decision meant that people had to either pay for medicine in cash or queue at the few EOPYY pharmacies.

Hopes for a solution to the impasse surged after EOPYY announced it paid out 75 million euros last Friday to cover medication provided in March. More money would be released, it said, to cover April’s expenses.

Payment delays have become the norm since the debt crisis broke in 2009. Suppliers have also halted deliveries to several major hospitals in protest at unpaid drug bills. The suppliers’ association has suspended deliveries to the capital’s Evangelismos, G. Gennimata, Sotiria and Attikon hospitals as well as the main general hospital on Rhodes and that in Alexandroupoli until some 150 million euros in outstanding debts are settled.

The general secretary at the Health Ministry, Athanassios Kotsopoulos, told Kathimerini that state hospitals had enough cash to pay their bills but payment has been blocked by the Court of Audit on the grounds that supply deals were made without prior competition.

Greece’s caretaker Prime Minister Panayiotis Pikrammenos has urged the Court of Audit to reconsider its stance and the body is expected to convene on the issue on Tuesday. Officials at the Health Ministry have said that if judges insist on blocking the money, they will seek alternative ways to make sure suppliers are paid.  

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