All employees and pensioners with the IKA-ETAM social insurance fund, the largest in the country, will be able to visit any of the 20,000 doctors that currently have agreements with the fund for the self-employed OAEE or the civil servants' fund OPAD as of Monday.

The measure was announced by the government of Friday as a means of coping with a lengthy strike announced by IKA-ETAM doctors protesting against government reforms in the health sector.

The government has announced plans to issue personal prescription booklets for patients, who in the meantime will qualify for primary care simply by displaying their IKA insurance booklet when they visit the above doctors in their private surgeries.

Until a system is in place, the OAEE and OPAD doctors have been instructed to write out prescriptions in their own personal prescription papers, recording on them the name, registry number and AMKA social insurance number of the patient involved.

Such prescriptions will be valid at all pharmacies collaborating with IKA-ETAM and will be paid using a process outlined in a draft law currently being discussed in Parliament, said IKA governor Rovertos Spyropoulos.

The doctors involved will be paid 20 euros for the first visit in a month and 10 euros for a second visit. The programme is voluntary and all OAEE and OPAD doctors that do not wish to provide services to patients from IKA-ETAM have been asked to inform the IKA-ETAM administration in writing or by e-mail.

Spyropoulos also pointed out that prescription books are due to be abolished from May, when the electronic prescription system is up and running.

Meanwhile, IKA doctors have changed their decision for an indefinite strike and called a series of rolling 24-hour strikes starting on Monday until Friday.

Also on strike from Monday until Thursday are hospital doctors in Athens and Piraeus while the national federation of hospital doctors will hold a three-day nationwide strike starting from Tuesday.

They want the government to withdraw its bill for health sector reforms and called the measures to give people access to OAEE and OPAD doctors a strike-breaking mechanism.

Pharmacists are also continuing strike action, with pharmacists throughout the country shut on Monday and those in Athens continuing the strike on Tuesday as well.