Health workers in Greece protest against doctors leaving public hospitals : Peoples Dispatch

Mobilization by health workers in front of the Greek Parliament on November 28, 2022 (Photo: via 902.gr)

Doctors and other staff at public hospitals across Greece have stepped up protests against a bill proposed by the conservative New Democracy (ND)-led government to abolish the exclusive employment of full-time doctors in public hospitals. Unions, including the Federation of Hospital Doctors of Greece (OENGE) and the All-Hellenic Federation of Public Hospital Workers (POEDIN), went on strike on 28 and 29 November and staged a protest demonstration in front of the Greek Parliament and the Ministry of Health.

A march to parliament demanding the withdrawal of the bill is scheduled for December 1. Health workers say the bill will adversely affect an already depleted hospital workforce and force them to shift to the private sector. Unions such as the Military Front of All Workers (PAME), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Federation of Women of Greece (OGE), among others, extended their support to the protesting doctors and health workers.

According to reports, the proposed bill intends to remove the exclusive employment of full-time doctors in the National Health Service (NHS) and encourages casual employment, forcing NHS doctors to seek work and income from the private sector. Doctors say the bill will destabilize NHS services by further weakening the workforce and causing more suffering for patients as waiting lists for consultations and operations grow longer and more and more people are forced to choose expensive medical care in the private sector.

The Ministry of Health is trying to justify the bill by claiming that very few doctors appear for vacancies for full-time doctors in government hospitals.

According to PAME, “the removal of exceptional employment for NHS doctors is not a measure that primarily affects doctors, but people. Officially, all patients will fall prey to the large private groups.

“This is a result of the long-term objective of reducing the operating costs of public health units and strengthening their commercial activity with afternoon clinics and afternoon offices where patients will pay generously. “Fiscal derailment” is used to hide the crazy profit trajectory of business groups.

In its petition calling for the bill to be withdrawn, OENGE claimed that “through the bill the government is trying to introduce part-time doctors, they are enabling NHS doctors to do private work, they are consolidating huge gaps and endless waiting lists, they are removing any concept of working hours and labor rights. We cannot tolerate it!’

“The solution to our stagnant wages is not to go to the healthcare market to find the clientele. It is not a decision to run from morning hours to afternoon clinics and afternoon offices and from duty to private clinics, without rest, without free time, at the expense of the health and life of both ourselves and our patients. It is not a solution for the patient to pay lavishly in order to “beat” the endless lists of operations and speed up his treatment. Any honest doctor who wants to combine contributions to society and science with working conditions and human wages should be the first to oppose this bill.”

Unions and left-wing political parties also condemned the deployment of riot police to block the doctors’ protest outside the Health Ministry on Tuesday.

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