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Waiting lists still too long, patients’ advocates say

The association for patients has sent the health minister a lengthy memorandum outlining 26 issues that need to be addressed urgently before the introduction of the new health scheme.

Top among the issues they see is the continued problems of long waiting lists, despite effort recently by health authorities to address the problem by outsourcing to the private sector.

The biggest problem was large waiting lists for surgical procedures, diagnostic tests and appointments with a doctor, according to the memo published in Phileleftheros on Sunday.

“Despite the programmes implemented by the ministry of health, there are still large waiting lists in some areas,” the association said. Among the main reasons for this, it added was the fact that many state diagnostic and treatment machines were out of order and had not been repaired immediately.

Another was the flight of doctors from the public to the private sector of late. “There is a lack of specialists such as gastroenterologists, rheumatologists, etc,” the patients’ association said. “This situation endangers the life and health of patients or leads to the overdue diagnosis of illnesses and treatment.”

On top of that other doctors in many cases take on the burden and are forced to serve patients in areas where they might not be specialised themselves, and end up referring them to specialists out of town “resulting in additional patient suffering”.

“When a patient is referred for diagnostic tests these are usually scheduled for months after. In particular, there are delays in ultrasounds, CT scan, MRIs, radiological examinations, colonoscopies and histological examinations,” the association said. “There are countless problems in accessing health services”.

The association called for swift implementation of hospital autonomy. “Everyone should work swiftly, methodically and in a coordinated way to promote decision-making and related legislation,” it added, expressing its concerns with the delays, in particular, the lack of cooperation between the Health Insurance Organization with various health care practitioners and the remuneration they will receive under the new health scheme Gesy.

“We realize that one of the main problems is the staffing of the Health Insurance Organization so that they can proceed quickly with the implementation of the various actions and pending actions”.

The association calls on the health ministry to take care of the purchase and upgrading of hospital medical equipment, as well as of the construction and upgrading of public hospital infrastructure and buildings. It notes that major delays are due mainly to government procedures and procurement involving multiple departments.

Other issues that need addressing, according to the association are e-health, cross-border healthcare, the creation of a national pharmaceutical authority, an overhaul of the mental health services, and sorting out the medical cannabis issue so there won’t be any delays in getting it to the patients who need it.

Problems that rarely reach the public domain included financial support for patients being referred abroad for treatment that would also cover accommodation and assistance costs, issues with Hepatitis C, which the association said requires a national strategy, and better home-care options.
The association also included a proposal to update legislation on patients’ rights that could see the creation of a patients’ advocates institution.

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