Greece creates e-platform to tackle corruption in healthcare

The “envelopes” phenomenon is a tradition that is well-known in Greece. However, no action has been taken so far to end the practice. [Chris Potter/Flickr]

Greece’s health ministry announced this week the creation of an electronic platform designed to tackle corruption in the healthcare system and protect patients’ “dignity”.

Speaking at a conference in Crete, Greek Health Minister Andreas Ksanthos stressed that for the first time a public debate is taking place to tackle this unprecedented phenomenon in the country’s healthcare system.

The norm

The “envelopes” phenomenon is a tradition that has been very well-known among politicians in Greece but no specific action has been taken so far.

For years now, patients who were about to undergo surgery or spend days in public hospitals were providing doctors in charge with an envelope containing additional money in order to receive the best possible healthcare.

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The phenomenon gradually became a norm and patients acting differently were often faced with discrimination in their health care.

“We must examine the causes. The system’s pathologies and delays should be taken into account but are not the main causes. It has always existed, but it was deteriorated during the economic crisis period,” the Athens new agency quoted Ksanthos as saying.

The minister added that the government was aware of this “unacceptable” situation, which “offends the dignity of the healthcare system as well as patients’ dignity and rights”.

Breaking with tradition

For Ksanthos, this behaviour could be attributed to patients’ deeper need to feel, through this privileged relationship with the doctor, safer and that they receive more reliable care.

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To tackle this phenomenon and increase public trust in the healthcare system, the leftist politician announced the creation of an electronic anti-corruption platform.

Via this platform, patients will be able to report such practices and file complaints that will be examined by special monitoring bodies.

The minister emphasised that the government would show zero tolerance from now on and stressed the need for a new culture.

“We believe that a new culture is needed, another style of the social health system, to convince patients that they can be offered services with dignity without seeking connections with people in charge or financial transactions,” Ksanthos noted.