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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs