Health minister on doctors' strike, new system

Up to 80 percent of the doctors collaborating with the civil servants' fund OPAD had agreed to also see IKA patients, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos told reporters on Tuesday. He also promised to iron out problems that had arisen with the 184 phone line for booking appointments with doctors.

Outlining the operation of the National Health Services Provision Organisation that will be established through the health care reforms being pushed through by the government, he stressed that those insured by IKA-ETAM would now have 26,000 doctors at their disposal instead of 7,000 as previously.

Loverdos said that the employment relationship between IKA-ETAM and the doctors employed there would not change, since they were salaried employees, and that they would not be working along the same lines as the doctors for OPAD and the self-employed workers' fund OAEE. He clarified that the ministry was calling on them to be paid based on population criteria and according to their productivity.

"I have asked them to begin dialogue again," he added, saying that he would probably have a meeting with striking doctors again on Thursday.

The minister went on to announce plans for a national health service website in which all the country's hospitals will be required to publish all financial transactions and activity, including purchase of supplies and prices, payroll costs, fees etc. He predicted that the act of making this information public would in itself lead to greater transparency and a reduction in prices, noting that military hospitals obtained their supplies at a lower price than state hospitals because their was transparency and control.

Meanwhile, thousands of appointments have been cancelled as doctors working with IKA-ETAM clinics and hospitals - who provide primary-level health care for the majority of Greece's salaried employees and pensioners - are continuing a series of rolling 24-hour strikes scheduled to last until the end of the week. Also on strike until Thursday are doctors at Greek hospitals.

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