Greece: Health fee abolished, medical care strengthened

Issue 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on April 2 that his government would strengthen the country's public health system by the hiring of 4500 extra staff and abolishing a compulsory €5 fee for treatment at public hospitals, that day.

The measure forms part of a broad package of reforms aimed at overhauling the country’s broken medical system by providing universal access to quality healthcare.

“All citizens, after this terrifying crisis, should have access to health care irrespective of whether they have insurance or not,” Tsipras said. Greece spends US$12 billion a year on its public healthcare system, about 5% of its total economic output. Tsipras said this was the lowest level of health spending among European Union nations.

The announcement comes as Greece's European and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders demand the new left-wing SYRIZA government commits to measures of fiscal austerity it was elected to oppose.

Greece can obtain $8 billion in new loans from the eurozone and the IMF if it implements austerity reforms that the previous government agreed would be the condition for disbursement. The new government does not want to implement most of these measures because they contradict its election promises to end austerity.

[Abridged from .]

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