3,000 Greek Doctors Fight Health Bill

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Doctors on Wednesday’s march in Athens
Doctors on Wednesday’s march in Athens

Over 3,000 medical doctors and health workers demonstrated on Wednesday through the Athens city centre against the government’s Health Bill, shouting ‘Loverdo (Health Minister) you will go like Ben Ali’ and ‘People rise up against the junta of the EU and IMF’.

Doctors said that it was the biggest rally since the early 1980s.

Doctors have been on strike for over a week against the Bill which ‘merges’ (shuts down) hospitals and health centres and imposes freelance labour relations on National Health Service doctors; patients will be called to pay between £20-60 for a hospital examination.

The Bill aims to cut by a staggering 60 per cent the Greek Budget allocation to health, thus driving the state spending on health to the lowest in Europe. Doctors predicted that the outcome of the Bill will simply be ‘chaos’ at hospitals.

The doctors mobilisation was actively supported by literally all medical doctors associations and by the health workers trade union EINAP.

Pharmacists, who have shut down their shops in protest, took part in the demonstration in their hundreds.

Large contingents of medical students and teachers also joined the march.

A militant and enthusiastic rally was held outside the Health Ministry building where doctors have occupied a large hall which is used as the HQ of their struggle.

Speaker upon speaker at the rally emphasised the leading and decisive role to the strike of the occupied hall’s meetings.

The president of the Athens Medical Association Sotiris Righakis said ‘the Bill is a product of the international speculators and their Greek servants’; he pointed out that ‘the Bill had united all doctors’ sections against it’.

Panos Papanikolaou, a doctor from the Nikea district of Athens, said that the fight must be ‘against the junta of the government, EU and IMF’.

There have been 1400 doctors sacked in the last few months.

The president of EINAP Stathis Tsakalos said that ‘the Health Minister is the gravedigger of health’.

The Health Bill was passed in the Greek parliament late on Wednesday night; doctors said that they would fight it in their ‘everyday practice’.