Italian hospitals set to become austerity casualty

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Italian hospitals set to become austerity casualty

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If as expected, the lower house of the Italian parliament adopts the austerity budget, the cost-cutting measures will be implemented almost straightaway.

An immediate casualty is likely to be the country’s health system. The package envisages new charges for emergency treatment; regular appointments with doctors will cost more.

“Hospitals and therefore healthcare will be hit particularly hard,” said Dr Andrea Filippi of the Viterbo health clinic in Rome, and manager of a child psychology centre. “The issue that I think is the most serious, that is going to compromise healthcare in Italian hospitals is the hiring freeze, because this will not allow us to replace retiring workers.”

He said that 30 percent of those in personnel were temporary workers who would have no chance of getting a permanent position under the freeze on recruitment.

Funding will be cut by half a percent in 2013, 1.4 percent the following year: a total of 8 billion euros.

Doctors say spending cuts will come on top of belt-tightening measures already announced. A fee known to Italians as the “ticket” that patients used to pay to visit hospitals or clinics has been reintroduced.

“I think that MPs should cut their salaries and raise the pensions of those who pay for the ticket,” said one elderly woman.

Although the opposition voted against the budget, they agreed not to delay it for fear of upsetting the markets. Whether ordinary Italians can be convinced the measures are necessary is another matter.