Greek health workers' strike shuts state hospitals

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek state hospitals functioned with emergency staff on Friday as doctors and staff held a 24-hour strike against planned health cutbacks enforced under the country's harsh austerity program.

Strikers held a protest outside the Health Ministry building in central Athens, and about 2,500 people marched peacefully to Parliament in central Athens.

Demonstrators included doctors from the state primary healthcare system, who have extended a strike launched Tuesday until Dec. 9, and residents of Aegean Sea islands who say reforms will deplete local health services.

Health unions are angry at the conservative-led government's plans to suspend and reallocate staff as part of its drive to reform the public sector and reduce the budget deficit.

Greece nearly went bankrupt in 2010 after running up huge public debts and under-reporting deficit data. The country has been kept afloat by a 240 billion-euro ($327 billion) bailout program from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund.

To secure continued payment of the loans, Greece has implemented deep spending cuts, slashing public-sector incomes and repeatedly hiking taxes.