Translation from an article in dutch from a flemish newspaper.
DAILY DEATHS DUE TO ACUTE SHORTAGES IN GREEK CLINICShttp://www.hln.be/hln/nl/960/Buitenland/article/detail/1447443/2012/06/0...
Some pictures can be seen in the above link.
Touching testimonial about healthcare cuts in Crete.
At the state clinic in Rethymnon signs can be seen: 'Healthcare for everyone' and 'No merger'. If the ministry of health gets its way, the general hospital of this town on Crete will be reduced to a medical center with an emergency room only. But even now there is an accute shortage of materials and drugs due to the cuts. The doctors sound the alarm: 'Patients who die because we no longer have the means to help them, this happens almost daily'. They are not heard. On the contrary: 'Patients often spend hours getting here and are then told that we can't help them. They then react their frustration out on us. But our anger is even greater'.
Doctors and nurses are working more hours than is legally allowed, de doctors have not been paid since January. Medical centers in the countryside have been bled dry, leading to an even greater influx to the clinic in Rethymnon. There, people without health insurance stand in line for the free emergency departement. The five euro that they have to pay for the 'normal' consultation, is to expensive for many.
Doctors work as volunteers here, patients without money get collected medicines. If there are any that is.
State of Emergency
We talk with radiologist Iannis Saridakis, who is also the chairman of the doctors union of the hospital, and kidney specialist Irini Ntaountaki. If you were to get a patel in the throat when hearing their story, you don't need to go to the ER immediately, because we also experienced this. 'This is a state of emergency, there has to be an international intervention', sighs Irini.
Iannis: 'Since two years now, our salaries and premiums for being on call and overtime have been cut in half. The last time I have been paid was in January. Half of what I normally got, yes'.
Patients sometimes stand in line for hours to then be told that their drugs aren't available. Believe me, there have been thousands of deaths in Greece in the past years due to the limited care that is available.
Doctor Iannis Saridakis
'The complaints from patients, about the long queues and bad care, are justified. We are the only general hospital in the region, for 100000 inhabitants. In the summer tourists are added to that who come to the ER. Colleagues who retire, are not replaced. There has been a hiring freeze for two years, this has lead to permanent understaffing of docotrs and nurses. The money coffers of the hospital are empty, we can't buy anything anymore. Suppliers of lifesaving drugs refuse to give us anything on credit anymore'.
'The government support that the clinic receives has been cut in half in the last two years. On top of that, we have only received ten percent of what was promised in the first half of this year. Yes, of the amount that was halved. The clinic has two sources of income: the healthinsurers, who don't give us anything anymore, and the government, which only gives us alms. Our functioning is near collapse, if nothing happens, we will have to close our doors in two months'.
People can no longer afford to vaccinate their children, due to limited screening there has been an explosion of aids cases, we are also seeing more people with tuberculosis.
Doctor Iannis Saridakis
'But in the meantime we are getting 30 percent more visitors than two years ago. Mostly people who can no longer afford health insurance and come to the ER or to the office of volunteer doctors for free care. Milions of Greeks and migrants no longer have health insurance. Normally they have to pay a ticket of five euro to enter the clinic, but many can't even afford that anymore. So they come to the ER. People can no longer afford to vaccinate their children, due to limited screening there has been an explosion of aids cases, we are also seeing more people with tuberculosis'.
Up to 90 work hours a week
'We were the first clinic in Greece with a voluntary service, now we are seeing this in the entire country. Doctors of the World tell their doctors to stay in Greece and to no longer travel abroad. Greek doctors work 80 to 90 hours a week'.
'In the past you only had to pay a pittance for medications, the health insurers paid those directly to the pharmacists for up to 80 to 90 percent. But the health insurers can't do this anymore and now patients have to pay the full amount in the pharmacy. Chronically ill people with a pension of 300 to 400 euro can no longer do this. They can get medications here that private persons donate to us. But this medication isn't always available. Patients sometimes stand in line for hours to then be told that their drugs aren't available. Believe me, there have been thousands of deaths in Greece in the past years due to the limited care that is available'.
'In the mean time it has become known that 4 out of 10 hospitals will be closed. The minister for public health points to Denmark, where general hospitals often serve a milion people. But Greece has a different geographic and demographic spread, you can't just inmplement this'.
Little by little Europenas are becoming aware of the seriousness of the situation, that is the only positive thing to come out of this misery.
Kidneyspecialist Irini Ntaountaki
Kidneyspecialist Irini Ntaountaki hasn't been paid in months. How does she handle the reality of patients whom she sees dying and who she knows could have been saved if there had been sufficient means available?
Angry at the politicians
'This makes me very angry. Not only with Greek politicians, but also the European ones. All the social movements here have been unable to effect nay change. We took to the streets with thousands, but it didn't help. The same story in the hospital in Alexandroupolis. There they still have supplies for fifteen days. All the operations that were planned, have been cancelled, only emergency surgeries are still performed'
Humanitarian state of emergency
Irini: 'It is very simple: a state of emergency should be declared in Greece, so that international funds can be made available. Personally, I will soon no longer receive filters that are necessary for kidney dialysis. There is an alternative treatment, with fluid that is injected into the belly of the patient, but even this delivery is not guaranteed. Yes, people are dying who don't have to die. But the foreign pharmaceutical companies refuse to deliver on credit, we have nowhere to turn to anymore'
Are there colleagues who check out, who refuse to continue working without pay?
Irini: 'Three out of four doctors in training want to leave Greece. But the doctors here in the clinic, who have a contract, refuse to leave the sinking ship. What keeps us going? Our anger, and our hope for justice. We have to go on'.
It can't get worse
Iannis: 'We are optimistic. The situation can only get better, because it can't get worse. But, believe us, we have knocked on every door and everytime we are told that there is no money. When we went to demonstrate in Heraklion at the ministry of public health, we received tear gas in reply. But we are not stopping with our actions. Europe has to know that the healthcare system in Greece is near collapse, that people are dying every day. Do you know what is worst? That the children are always the first victims. The new generation will have no future if there is no intervention soon'.
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