Minister complains of health expeditures

Minister complains of health expeditures

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Minister complains of health expeditures

IMF debt inspector Poul Thomsen arrives at a government building in Athens. AP Photo

Greeks are still overspending on unnecessary medicine and hospital tests, burdening social welfare funds as the country struggles with its debt crisis, the health minister said yesterday as Greek coalition leaders were studying a deal on strict austerity measures to secure a 130 billion euros of ($170 billion) bailout that will help the country avoid a bankruptcy next month.

Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said that 3.5 million axial scans had been carried out in Greece last year, double the number in European Union states combined.

Loverdos added that Greeks were currently throwing out one billion euros ($1.3 billion) in outdated medicine stored in their homes.

“(Health) spending was incredible three years ago and it remains very high,” Loverdos told private Skai Radio.

“To give you an idea of how much money is unnecessarily spent on medicine, one billion euros’ worth of medicine is thrown in the garbage,” he said.

“Doctors were still prescribing more last year, when they should have been prescribing less,” the minister said.

The Greek government is trying to limit overspending on social welfare, part of a general austerity drive ordered under pressure from the EU and International Monetary Fund after the country nearly went bankrupt in 2010.

Chaotic account-keeping has led to massive waste of state funds for decades.

This enabled unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists to write false prescriptions to patients -- some of them already deceased -- and skim off the proceeds.

Public spending on medicine was reduced to 3.75 billion euros last year from 5.6 billion in 2010, and the health ministry plans to make another 800-million-euro cut this year, Loverdos said.

The Greek leaders were still bargaining on the austerity measures draft when the Daily News went to print yesterday evening.