The Greek health minister, Adonis Georgiadis, has defended the introduction of a new €5 hospital fee following criticism from other parties in parliament.
Georgiadis faced wide-ranging criticism on Monday (3 March) not only from opposition parties, but also from junior coalition partner PASOK, over the hospital fee which patients will be charged for admission to polyclinics in the country’s new Primary National Healthcare Network (PEDY).
PASOK MPs have described the €5 fee for polyclinic admission as “sudden", "rash” and “confusing” for citizens.
At the beginning of the year, Greece introduced a €25 hospital fee as an alternative source of revenue for the Greek government. However, the fee was later scrapped and passed on to cigarette smokers.
The new fee for admission to state hospitals was drawn up and voted through Greece's parliament in 2011, under the government of former Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou.
Georgiadis attacked PASOK on TV on Monday evening, claiming the previous government was to blame for the fee, according to the newspaper Ekathimerini.
The Federation of Greek Doctors' Unions (OENGE) has likewise urged the Health Ministry to withdraw the hospital fee.
"Citizens have already paid for the health system via their social security contributions and their taxes, and they should not be obliged to pay for the same thing a third time," OENGE said in a statement on Tuesday (4 March).
They added that citizens should refuse to pay the admission fee.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Athens faces a funding gap of nearly €11 billion for 2014-15.
The eurozone debt crisis has forced some governments to drastically cut their public health budgets in an effort to contain deficits.
Greece was among the countries taking the toughest measures, but Spain and other countries such as France and the Czech Republic have also taken similar steps.
- Ekathimerini: Doctors call for withdrawal of 5-euro patient fee
- Ekathimerini: Health minister, Pasok clash over 5-euro hospital fee