Greece's Tsipras aims to bolster public health care

AP News
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Posted: Apr 02, 2015 10:04 AM
Greece's Tsipras aims to bolster public health care

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Thursday his government will bolster public health care in Greece through the hiring of 4,500 specialized staff and the abolition of a compulsory 5-euro ($5.4) fee for treatment at public hospitals.

Speaking at the Health Ministry, Tsipras said some reforms passed during the last few years as part of austerity measures required for Greece's international bailout had damaged the country's health system and that his government was working to repeal them.

"The national health service had problems before the bailout, but it's obvious that in the last four or five years, the bailout choices and reforms were a nuclear bomb at the foundations of the national health service," Tsipras said.

He announced his government was repealing the "unacceptable" 5-euro payment patients were required to make in order to be seen on an out-patient basis at public hospitals.

"We are already working on interventions to abolish bailout measures that have contributed to the destruction of the health service," he said, listing reforms to the ambulance service, medications and pharmacies, mental health and appointing doctors in rural areas.

Since 2010, Greece has been dependent on rescue loans worth 240 billion euros from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. Tsipras was elected in January on promises to abolish the deeply resented bailout conditions, which included deep spending cuts and tax hikes.

However, the government has since softened many pre-election promises and is currently locked in tense negotiations with its creditors over new reforms it wants approved in order to receive the final 7.2 billion-euro bailout installment.

A text of the reforms leaked to the Financial Times in Brussels details measures the Greek side is proposing, including reforms to the tax system and cracking down on corruption. The reforms, updated from an earlier list, are expected to generate between 4.7 billion and 6.1 billion euros this year.

A Greek government official said the leaked reforms were a "working text" being used as a basis for negotiations, and not an agreement. The official stressed that although the text details the possibility of a primary surplus — the budget position after debt repayments — higher than 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, that funds from such a potential excess would not be used to pay back debt.

Greece is running increasingly short of cash, with IMF loans and treasury bills coming due this month. Athens has been hoping for at least a partial release of the final bailout installment in order to avoid default and to also pay salaries and pensions.