Health minister meets pharmacists associations, promises swift payment of OPAD debts

Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and the heads of pharmacists' associations throughout the country held an unscheduled meeting on Monday, to discuss the pharmacists' decision to stop supplying prescription medication on credit to those insured by OPAD, the civil servants' social insurance fund.

The minister provided assurances that the fund had now received the money needed to pay its outstanding debts to pharmacies and that the delays in payment were now purely bureaucratic. This seemed to satisfy the heads of most pharmacists' associations, with the notable exception of Constantinos Lourantos, chairman of the Attica Pharmacists' Association, who apparently walked out after a heated exchange with the minister.

Lourantos had been instrumental in arranging the meeting when he called in to the television programme "Kalimera Ellada" on Monday morning while the minister was being interviewed and claiming that pharmacists had ended up punishing the public in their attempt to punish the government for the delays.

Sources said that Deputy Finance Minister Philippos Sahinidis also participated in the meeting over the telephone, assuring representatives of pharmacists that OPAD received 250 million euro last Thursday in order to pay its debts.

Loverdos had earlier said that pharmacists would receive payment for 2010 by April. He told pharmacists that it was wrong to keep OPAD insured 'hostage' and that there was no reason to continue this tactic.

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