Long queues are being formed outside pharmacies that are still dispensing drugs on credit, while doctors in many public hospitals are protesting against the shortages in medical supplies deterring them from treating patients.
Pharmacists and doctors claim they cannot afford to pay their suppliers anymore, while patients are desperately in search of pricey yet vital drugs. The newly established National Healthcare Organization (EOPPY) is in such debt that pharmacists no longer prescribe medicine to EOPPY insurers on credit. Thus, patients all over Greece have found themselves cancelling treatment sessions, a decision which could easily threaten their lives.
Reuters conducted an extensive report on the collapse of the public health services in Greece, noting that the country has been importing all of its medicines and does not buy cheap generic drugs. More particularly, EOPPY so far for 2012 owes some 540 million Euros to pharmacists, 800 million Euros to private clinics, 1.7 billion Euros to public hospitals, 570 million Euros to doctors and diagnostic labs that signed contracts with the organization and another 550 million Euros to private medical suppliers.
The growing crisis has delivered a severe blow to the public health system, which has crumbled under the austerity measures asking for more cuts in public expenditures. According to Reuters, the IMF has said Greece needs to keep public health spending below 6 percent of GDP, down from around 10 percent at present and must sharply cut spending on pharmaceuticals which has surged over the past decade.
Doctors in many hospitals lack the basics, such as cotton wool, gloves, vaccines, paper and catheters to treat their patients properly. Several reports have come to light about patients who could either not be treated at all or who would show up too late for their scheduled appointments as their health had already deteriorated. Not even the infamous ‘fakelaki’ can help the majority of the Greeks any longer, since unemployment and drastic cuts in wages and pensions has left no room for excessive spending.
Caretaker PM of Greece Panayiotis Pikrammenos made a plea last week to settle the arrears as soon as possible because human lives were being put at stake. Fears have been mounting that should public health levels fall more in the future, then the risk of a general health crisis could easily break out.
The ongoing crisis and political instability is only adding to the problem. “Pharmaceutical industry sources say that drug makers have already discussed with European authorities how to keep Greece supplied with medicines should it have only new, radically devalued drachmas to pay for them,” reported Reuters.