Athens pharmacists continue credit boycott

Athens pharmacists on Thursday announced a decision to extend their boycott of the cash-strapped country’s largest state-backed health insurance fund until Saturday, June 30.

Pharmacists in the capital froze credit to patients last month to protest the government’s failure to settle its debts to the National Organization for Healthcare Provision, also known as EOPYY, and press for guarantees of future funding.

The organization, which represents more than 9 million of the country’s 11 million people, provides subsidized medicine to ordinary Greeks.

A statement by the Attica Pharmacists’ Association called upon the new government, which was sworn in on Thursday, “to take all the necessary steps toward the implementation of its campaign pledges.” In a meeting with pharmacists’ representatives last week, Antonis Samaras, who is now prime minister, vowed to offset EOPYY’s debts against the pharmacists’ tax dues.

The association’s decision was reached following a rowdy meeting that ended with a narrow vote in the early hours of Thursday. A total 491 members of the association voted in favor of continuing the boycott, against 478 who voted to end the action.

Tension came to a head when Costas Lourantos, head of the Attica Pharmacists Association, threatened to resign. Lourantos was in favor of continuing the mobilization against the different view held by the board.

Hundreds of people lined up at pharmacies in Piraeus on Thursday to buy their medicine on credit. Pharmacies in the port city last week decided to resume credit to patients insured with EOPYY. Their Thessaloniki counterparts have also lifted their boycott.

Hopes for a solution to the impasse surged after EOPYY announced earlier this month it paid out 122 million euros to cover half of the medication provided in April. Pharmacists protest they have not received the agreed amount, which in any case is not the full amount.

Payment delays have become the norm since Greece’s debt crisis broke in 2009. Suppliers have also halted deliveries to several major hospitals in protest at unpaid drug bills. 

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