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The Troika: Killing the Greek Patient – Softly?

While the Troika meets with several Greek ministers, its demands get more and more absurd. In fact, they are not absurd, they’re just the IMF’s policies of ‘hit and kill’ applied everywhere in the world. In order to push for further of cuts in the public expenditure, the representatives of Greece’s lenders pressure for cheap medicine for the Greek insurers. To Vima reports that the latest demand dictated by the Troika is that the copy-drugs would make up 50% of the medication prescribed by the physicians at the Greek National Health System. Furthermore expensive drugs and health tests should require the extra contribution by the insured patient.

“If the patients want expensive drugs, they should pay for it”  Troika officials allegedly told officials form the health ministry at a meeting on Friday.

A friend was telling me that lastest technology drugs against cancer still have their patent running. We both wondered whether Greek cancer patients would have to pay their medication out of their own pockets… 

Cuts in Health Wounds

In addition, the IMF cuts knife-sharp the number of available beds in public hospitals at 20%. Even though the number of patients seeking the public hospitals increased at 25% in the years 2009-2011 due to the economic crisis that devastes the Greek society.

The number of public hospital patients increased from 1.7 million people in 2009 to 2.3 million in 2011. At the same time, the number of available beds decreased at 20%, the public hospital personnel at 15%, while various medical departments went were closed at 20%.

The number of personnel is expected to decreased further as the Troika seeks a 5.6% decrease in the labour costs of public hospitals for 2012.

IMF – Dressed to Kill?

The International Monetary Fund strict fiscal policies have been notorious for the hazardous impact of the health systems of the countries that sought the IMF’s aid.

IMF’s Impact on Public Health

In 2008 a study by analysts from Cambridge and Yale universities published on the open-access Public Library of Science concluded that strict conditions on the international loans by the IMF resulted in thousands of deaths in Eastern Europe by tuberculosis as public health care had to be weakened. In the 21 countries to which the IMF had given loans, tuberculosis deaths rose by 16.6%.[40]

In 2009, a book by Rick Rowden titled The Deadly Ideas of Neoliberalism: How the IMF has Undermined Public Health and the Fight Against AIDS, claimed that the IMF’s monetarist approach towards prioritizing price stability (low inflation) and fiscal restraint (low budget deficits) was unnecessarily restrictive and has prevented developing countries from being able to scale up long-term public investment as a percent of GDP in the underlying public health infrastructure. The book claimed the consequences have been chronically underfunded public health systems, leading to dilapidated health infrastructure, inadequate numbers of health personnel, and demoralizing working conditions that have fueled the “push factors” driving the brain drain of nurses migrating from poor countries to rich ones, all of which has undermined public health systems and the fight against HIV/AIDS in developing countries. (wikipedia)


Even though I often write about the situation in the Greek public health care system, I could write long stories about own and friends’ experience from the public health sector. The most recent was to see my father in a room of a public hospital with a hole in the window glass protected by a piece of carton. An unprotected hole in the bathroom window. Lack of hot water for shower or shaving. Torn covers on chairs. Lack of laboratories and other essential facilities. Occasional shortage of serums and other first aid material. And many, many bugs happily wandering on the floor and the walls. Thank God, there was a man with a walking stick in the room and you could show him where the bug is. BGMBFF! The man would kill the bug with his stick within seconds. This happened in January of salvation year 2012.


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  1. Hi,

    I am a Spanish journalist based in Athens and regular follower of your blog, and I share most of your opinions. However, I cannot see your point in your concerns about generic drugs.
    In Spain we have a practically universal, good quality and free of charge healthcare (at least till now: unfortunately the new govt is discussing the privatization of part of it and the introduction of payment for patients). In the last years, some of the regional govts of Spain introduced the generic drugs and last year the national govt made it mandatory to give that kind of drugs (that are based on the active principle instead of the brand) planning to save around 2 billion euro. These drugs are basically the same as the ones “with brand” but the State does not have to pay for the patent, so saving around 15 % of the price. I think is a very good idea, and it can press the big drug companies to reduce the price of their patents.


    • keeptalkinggreece

      sorry for the misunderstanding. My concern is not about the generic drugs, but what will happen with patients who must take drugs that have no generic edition. Will they pay out of their own pockets? Furthemore I do not know if pharmacies do have supplies in generic drugs. Uncertainty prevails in families with chronic-ill members for several reasons including an immense bureaucracy that makes patient lives even more difficult? Did you now know that expensive prescription drugs for cancer have to be obtained only by certain pharmacies for the insured of certain insurance funds? And these pharmacies are not right next door. the common practice is you get a prescription by a public hospital, then you have to seek a physician from the insurance fund to ‘write’ the prescription, then go to pharmacy. Average waiting time for appointment with physician is one month, at least. Or you go privately and pay 30-50 euro just to get the prescription on time.