Greek minister defends health austerity cuts

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Greek Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis has defended the austerity-driven health policy imposed on Athens by the Troika, arguing that Greece is benefiting from the cuts.

Though some Troika-introduced health cut measures have been mistakes, some new initiatives within the Greek healthcare system are working effectively and saving Greece money, Georgiadis said on Tuesday (18 March), speaking at the European Commission in Brussels.

For example, 99% of the country's health affiliates are now online and benefiting patients, the health minister said.

With the electronic archive, Greece is now saving €3.5 million per year, which Georgiadis called "obviously a very considerable saving", adding that the country was able to cut waste in the health sector. With the help of the Troika, things are now being changed, especially when it comes to logistics, he said.

"I think that the European dream and as a union, we have this common purpose. We need to see what common measures we can introduce to make all of our dreams more feasible and reduce health inequalities," the minister said.

"Of course this can't be done with magic. The only way to do this is to use what we got more efficiently and that's what we are trying to do," he continued.

The Greek government and the Troika have been criticised for being “in denial” about the scale of the problems created by unprecedented cuts in health spending in the southern EU country.

In a report published by The Lancet, academics from Oxford and Cambridge, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, say that the Greek government is wrong when it claims that public-spending cuts have not damaged public health.

They said that vulnerable groups, such as the homeless, migrants, and uninsured people. have been denied access to healthcare in Greece.

"At the moment, a great deal of migration to the EU goes via Greece. So the EU does already help Greece a great deal, but we want to work even closer together to provide equal access to healthcare for immigrants, which I think isn't a question just for my country, but for the EU as a whole. We need to make sure that we work together," Georgiadis said.

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.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Austerity: Healthcare in hardship

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