Healthy citizens for a healthy economy

Healthy citizens propel a healthy economy for any civilized country, but surprisingly, in Greece, the government does not appreciate this.

Presently in Greece, a citizen would have to pay five Euros to see a doctor and 25 Euros to be admitted as an in- patient at any public health facility. To add salt to injury there is a 60% increase in waiting hours at the public hospital while public sector health workers salaries have been reduced by 50 %. Beds in the public health facility have been reduced coupled with reduction in public health medical staff. Accessing health care in Greece is very expensive and has consequently resulted in an unfortunate situation where only six per cent (6%) of patients with chronic diseases are unable to seek medical review as a result of both income cut of patients and high cost of accessing healthcare.

To this end, there is a mounting pressure on a social clinic within the metropolis of Elliniko Argyroupolis.  According to the pediatrician Dr. Toula Zerrou, who is in charge of the social clinic, patients who visit the clinic are the needy in the society.

“Because of the free services as well as free diapers, vaccination and baby milk the clinic gives out to patients, a lot of people visit this small clinic. Adding that there is the need for the clinic to grow bigger since it is very accommodative to patients who are indebted to the tax authorities as well as have no social security”, the pediatrician told members of PSI Communicators Network presently in Greece for a five-day training programme.

In contrast, the privately owned health facilities are doing very well. According to a survey conducted by ADEDY (the federation of public service unions in Greece) public hospitals beds have been reduced to about 1100 beds whereas private health facilities have within the same period of three years seen an increase in beds to 600 in the city of Athens.

To the President of ADEDY, Brother Odysseus Dravalas the Greece government is pursuing an insensitive agenda of privatization which is very inimical to the general populace of the Greek society.

“In spite of these numerous difficulties the health sector is experiencing, scores of the people particularly the public servants who are presently experiencing pay cut and dismissals coupled with the huge unemployed populace, are unable to access health care which has become extremely expensive, the President said. Adding that, fee systems as introduced in the health sector does not favour the citizenry instead it favours the private hospitals”. 

This unfortunate phenomenon is as a result of austerity policies on health and social services. As per the austerity arrangements the Greek government is restricted in spending on health services.  Hospital beds are being reduced from 35000 to 33000 and specialist units from 2000 to 1700.

The Greek government now buys medicines at lower rates, with reduction of annual spending on expenses from 5.2 billion euros in 2009 to 1.65 billion in 2011. Cheaper, generic medicines are being promoted according to the dictates of the austerity interventions.

But the pediatrician at the metropolitan social clinic thinks that the course government is pursing will collapse the Greek health care system.

However the General Secretary of ADEDY says trade unions in Greece will resist any attempts by government to make health care unbearable and has therefore called on all labour Union across the globe to join them in their fight against imperialism in Greece.

The General Secretary of PSI, Rosa Pavanelli has noted that her organization is very committed to entrenching democracy in Greece. To her, democracy is the panacea to the numerous challenges that confront the present Greek society.

“It is more than expressing solidarity, it is about entrenching democracy” the PSI General Secretary noted.

By Jerry D Mensah-Pah, HSWU, Ghana