48-hour strike 'only the start', doctors warn; health ministry adamant

The two-day strike by doctors throughout the country beginning on Thursday will only be the start and a foretaste of more militant action to come, the head of Greece's nationwide medical association warned on Wednesday.
He made the announcement just a few hours after a press conference in which Health Minister Andreas Loverdos had emphasised the government's determination to go ahead with planned reforms health care, in spite of doctors' objections.
Among others, he made it clear that no new doctors will be hired within the health service and that any new hiring allowed with the restrictions of the memorandum would be used to recruit more nurses, of which there was a real shortage.
Under the new system, 22,000 doctors belonging to the Unified Primary Healthcare Organisation (EOPY) will be permitted to offer their services once a week, from morning until night, at state hospitals where there was a shortage of doctors, based on a decision of the hospital's board.
The minister stressed that the government "will forge ahead along the road we have taken," in spite of doctors' objections, while accusing doctors of refusing to participate in dialogue.
According to Loverdos, the government was working on an entirely new way of running the country's national health system, especially emergency departments, with legislative measures that would be ready after October 15.
He said patients will be screened by an intern or team of doctors as they entered an emergency room, with priority treatment received based on the seriousness of their condition rather than 'clients' of specific doctors.
Replying to the minister's claim that doctors refused dialogue, the head of the national medical association said that the government had at no time sent any outline of its plans for the National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY), adding that doctors had participated in dialogue for months but were never given specific details of the government's intentions.
Doctors also questioned the point of measures allowing private physicians that have contracts with EOPYY to provide their services at a state hospital once a week and were strongly critical of an announcement that the state will stop hiring new doctors, calling the measure 'indiscriminate cost cutting'.
They stressed that all hospitals, the surgeries of the Social Insurance Foundation and also health care units will work with a skeleton staff during their 48-hour strike, only emergency incidents will be treated and no scheduled appointments will be carried out.

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