Nurses' ire over patient pensions

A state plan to reduce the pensions of patients of psychiatric clinics and use the money to bolster operating costs, which was reportedly prepared by the Health Ministry last year but is yet to be enforced, has triggered protests by employees at the units who claim they are being obliged to collaborate in securing the patients’ consensus for the cuts.

The plan foresees the reduction of patients’ pensions on a sliding scale, Kathimerini understands, with pensions of 500 euros to be cut 50 percent, pensions of 700 euros by 70 percent and pensions over 700 euros per month to be slashed by 80 percent.

It remains unclear whether the plan is in fact legal. “It goes against Article 21 of the Constitution, on the protection of health,” Vassilis Papadopoulos, a lawyer familiar with the matter, told Kathimerini. “It violates the principle of equality and proportionality as it withholds money on a graded scale as is the case with the tax offices,” he said, adding that the changes also ignored the “nursing needs of different individuals.”

As the pension holder’s consensus is required before the amount can be withheld, workers at the clinic claim they are being put in a difficult, and unethical, position. “We are people whom the patients look to and trust,” said Panos Papadopoulos of the union representing staff at psychiatric clinics. “Now we’re being asked to become revenue collectors,” he said.

Funding cutbacks in the psychiatric health sector have been severe -- around 30 percent in the state sector and 50 percent in the private, nonprofit sector. According to Dora Koutsanellou, the head of the union of workers at the state Dromokaiteio psychiatric hospital, cutbacks have led to shortages in food, consumables and sometimes medicine, meaning that patients often use their own money to pay for food and other basic goods. 

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