News / Europe

Greek Doctors Warn of ‘Health Catastrophe’

Local residents sit outside of the town's hospital in the town of Thebes, about 88 kilometers northwest of Athens, June 2011. (file photo)
Local residents sit outside of the town's hospital in the town of Thebes, about 88 kilometers northwest of Athens, June 2011. (file photo)
Henry Ridgwell

Doctors in Greece are warning of an impending health catastrophe brought about by the financial crisis. They say government cuts mean patients are unable to afford treatment, while hospitals are facing staff cutbacks and shrinking budgets for medicines. A study in the medical journal Lancet echoes the warnings, and says there are signs of a sharp rise in mental health problems and suicides.

The emergency ward at Evangelismos Hospital in Athens - Greece’s largest - and the flow of patients is relentless.

Doctors say government spending cuts and rising unemployment are stretching services to breaking point.

Ilias Sioras, head of the doctors’ association at the hospital, said, “People cannot afford private doctors, therefore the numbers resorting to public  hospitals has risen, by approximately 25 to 30 percent. This has been verified by the [Health] Ministry. Poor people have no money to pay for their healthcare and consequently come here. Then the volume of work grows on all levels. In the emergency wards, in the laboratories, the surgeries and in the clinics. Secondly, in Evangelismos hospital there is shortage in the nursing personnel.”

Tens of thousands of Greeks are losing their jobs and their private health insurance. The Health Ministry has started charging patients for more drugs - and many patients cannot even afford the $7 flat fee when visiting a clinic.

Sioras said there are further worries about the quality of supplies.

"The hospital authorities have negotiated with the medical companies and they’ve bought copies of the original medicines. These are of doubtful quality and especially with antibiotics, we have witnessed the appearance of many allergies among patients.”

Outside Evangelismos, there was concern among patients over the cuts to healthcare.

One man said, “We are not satisfied, things are not going well, the hospitals are not going well. In Greece, if you don’t have money you die.”

Another blames the number of immigrants. “With the economic crisis - because of a cost-cutting - some things have been cut short,” he said, “but I think the biggest problem still is the 2 million illegal refugees who receive free hospital care.”

Workers at the Evangelismos Hospital suggest there has been a 10-fold rise in HIV cases among intravenous drug users. They blame cutbacks to government initiatives, like the syringe exchange program.

A report in the medical journal Lancet warns of a rise in suicides. Alexander Kentikelenis of Britain’s Cambridge University is one of the authors.

"We have been able to find reports by the minister of health and other officials quoting a 25 percent rise in suicides in 2010, and a 40 percent rise in suicides in the first half of 2011," said Kentikelenis.

The government denies there’s a health crisis. The director of Evangelismos hospital says the changes would benefit the system - calling it ‘restructuring.’

And some patients, like Antonios Sideris, still praise their treatment.

“I have cancer,” he said. I don’t have a financial issue because in my case, everything is free, the hospital and my medication. I don’t have to pay anything. I am satisfied with my care.”

But many doctors fear that level of care cannot be maintained.

Cardiologist Sioras, said, “That’s why we say that the situation in the hospitals will become tragic, and if we don’t take measures against that and have no working solidarity, we will be mourning victims every day.”

Doctors like Sioras say that every day on the hospital wards, they are witnessing the human tragedies of Greece’s economic meltdown.


You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More