Like in a “war zone”: Patients in ER of big Athens public hospital

May 15, 2024

Patients crammed like sardines in a tiny can, lay on provisional beds, holding tight their few belongings, trying to get the help they need from a few members of medical staff at a public hospital on duty.

The shocking picture leaked to the press by the Doctors’ Union OEGNE  shows the dramatic situation for patients, doctors and nurses in one of the biggest hospitals, the Gennimatas, in Greek capital Athens.

“Emergencies Departments” in public hospitals, especially in Athens, turn into “war zones” in the middle of on-call. Gennimatas is not the only hospital where such scenes have been unfolded/captured.

Georgia Filippa, medical doctor at Gennimatas hospital and member of the Board of Directors of Union EINAP, noted on the occasion of the leaked picture “It is an image of dozens of patients piled on stretchers, waiting for hours to be examined, while doctors and nurses running in panic to catch up and to be squeezed among them so that they can treat them.”

Filippa added that this situation did not emerge from one moment to the next, but it was built by the policies of under-staffing in hospitals, the ever-deepening commercialization of the public health system, and the dissolution of the Prime Care system.

From time to time similar pictures from the drama in the ER rooms from other hospitals are leaked two the press. The …”trend” tends to be taken for granted by both the hospital personnel and the patients.

Oncology patients in hospital corridor

According to daily ethnos.gr, public hospitals have not been managed properly since a couple of months, as their governors are practically off duty and wait to see if they will be appointed again to ESY, given that the Health Minister launched a public competition for the selection of new executives in the health system and the procedure is still ongoing.

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The worrying thing is that based on estimates of high-ranking government officials, the appointment of the new hospital administrators is not expected to take place before September, ethnos.gr reported, noting that until then “the hospitals will have been abandoned to their fate.”

23,582 vacancies in 11 years – 300 employees a month retire without being replaced

The National Health System has completed 40 years since its establishment in 1982 and it seems to be aging rapidly.

Under-funding, dire shortages in many worker specialties and grueling work rates are its main problems, making it unattractive to young doctors, nurses and other staff.

Indicative are the data from the Human Resources Register of the Greek State. Specifically, in the last 11 years, the number of permanent employees of the Ministry of Health, the majority of whom are health workers, has decreased by 25.03%.

Τhe Health Ministry had:

  • 94,164 permanent staff in December 2012
  • 70,582, i.e. 23,582 fewer permanent jobs in December 2023.

“Each month, 300 employees retire from the National Health Service, without being replaced. The announced staff recruitment is delayed for a considerable period of time in order to be completed due to the time-consuming procedures of public competition procedure of ASEP. When they are completed, we find that there is a turnover of the same serving staff because contract employees occupy permanent positions or permanent employees are hired in other organic health units”, the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDIN) said in a statement published today, Wednesda, May 15, 2024.

PS Two years ago, my brother and I as accompanied person spend whole 10 hours in the ER of Attikon hospital until he could undergo all necessary testing and be admitted to a department – thus irrelevant to his medical condition. He was bed-bound and spent the first two days on a stretcher in a corridor, until a bed in a ward was free. He stayed there, in this irrelevant clinic for almost two months.

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