Greek doctors and pharmacists in first strikes of 2012
Greek pharmacists and doctors have kicked off a week of strikes against cost-cutting measures and liberalisation reforms pursued by the country's debt-struck government.
Most pharmacies will be closed until Tuesday over the government’s attempt to further cut their profit margins to 15 per cent, from 18 per cent in a move to boost Greece's troubled social security funds.
Last week, the government said health spending overall had soared to 10.6 billion euros in 2009 and the goal was to reduce the sum to seven billion euros this year.
State hospitals are only treating emergency cases until Thursday to pressure the government to abandon plans for additional wage cuts, which are part of ongoing salary reductions in the broader Greek public sector.
Meanwhile, the association of Greek doctors has also called for a nationwide walkout by its members, barring emergencies, in protest against health sector spending cuts and a disputed organisational overhaul.
Health professionals say they have to sign new contracts with a new state health organisation, EOPPYY, that started operating on Monday to streamline and improve management of the main social security funds.
But there is already a backlog of millions of euros in unpaid state bills for medicine, medical supplies and equipment.
Chaotic account-keeping has led to a massive waste of state funds for decades and enabled unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists to write false prescriptions to patients, some already dead, and skim off the proceeds.
Last year, labour ministry officials revealed that millions of euros annually had also been spent on retirement payments to long-dead pensioners.
Many retired Greeks have already sustained pension cuts in addition to income lost through price hikes, while civil servants have also had their monthly salaries slashed by hundreds of euros.
Greece, struggling under a debt of over 350 billion euros, is going through a fourth year of recession that has seen its economy shrink by a cumulative 15 per cent, bringing unemployment to almost 18 per cent.