Health Crisis in Greece

One major impact of austerity policies on people and society has been in the area of health care services. Health care workers have seen their salaries slashed by up to 50%. The number of beds in public hospitals has been reduced, while at the same time, the number private hospital beds have increased. A fee system has recently been introduced into the country and the fee system favors private hospitals by 20%.

Healthcare costs are rising for all citizens for medical visits, diagnostic tests and pharmaceutical medicines. Another result of the crisis is the imposition of a greater limit on cost for medical and travel costs for people with chronic illnesses. This means patients who cannot afford such costs will die.

“We have to consider Greece’s geography when we consider health care expenditure,” explained Odysseus Dravalas, President of the public trade union ADEDY.  “Greece has thousands of islands, some very small as well as very mountainous areas.  We have to ask ourselves, as a society, do insular residents need hospitals, a doctor?  The answer of course is yes and this uniquely increases the public cost of health care in Greece.” 

As a result of austerity policies, medical visits to public health centers have increased by 22%. But costs on drugs and orthopedic supplies have been reduced by 21%. The number of beds in public beds since 2010-1011 has been reduced by 1,100 beds, while private beds have increased by 600.

The medical staff has been greatly reduced. The proportion of doctors is now 2.6 to 1000 people.  There is a lower than 50% OECD average of nurses.  This reduction in health care spending not only impacts workers but has serious consequences on all members of citizen as well as the health and well-being of the nation.

By Karen Hickey, AFL-CIO Wisconsin, USA