On Greek Island, Hospital Staff Complain of ‘Tragic’ Conditions

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Health unions in Greece say hospitals are chronically underfunded and understaffed.

Staff of the general hospital on the Greek island of Samos, northeastern Aegean, are warning of a “tragic” situation at the hospital due to staff shortages and a litany of maintenance issues, among them the fact that the hospital call centre has been offline for 10 days.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the employees’ union at the hospital warned of severe staff shortages that are putting a huge strain on those in work; a lack of cleaning staff has increased the risk of infection, it said, while staff members are owed hundreds of days of leave they have been unable to take.

The statement listed a string of problems including broken beds, shortages of mattresses, unlit stairwells, patient call bells that have not worked for years, the lack of a functioning morgue, rotten flooring and patient toilets in disrepair.

“The situation at the hospital is tragic and is a consequence of its underfunding and understaffing,” said union president Stamatis Filippis. “The staff are exhausted and doing the impossible. Also, many medical specialties do not exist, such as rheumatologists, ophthalmologists, oncologists, etc. and the few doctors cannot serve the patients.”

He said the union had been flagging the issues for years and appealed to the health ministry to help resolve them.

The hospital management told public broadcaster ERT it has secured 55,000 euros in funding and would fix the call centre. In the meantime, mobile phones have been distributed to all departments, it said.

Health sector unions say such problems are not unique to Samos but common to hospitals across Greece.

Neurosurgeon Panos Papanikolaou, general secretary of the Federation of Greek Hospital Doctors’ Associations, OENGE, said that for the past 18 months OENGE has been warning of what he called “a deliberate policy of understaffing” pursued by the ruling New Democracy party, leading to the “functional collapse of the national health system”.

In Greece’s second biggest city, Thessaloniki, the anesthesiology department of the Papanikolaou hospital has said it will only take emergency cases, citing a lack of staff.

In Athens, the imaging laboratory of Nikaia has only two fulltime doctors and one locum doing the work of what should be a staff of nine.

Experts say there has been a rise in resignations among doctors and junior doctors and a failure to replace them. A growing number of medical graduates are also seeking opportunities abroad.

The Greek health ministry declined to comment.

OENGE has called on the government to immediately fill staffing gaps, provide financial incentives and increase funding for public healthcare.

Unions on the Aegean islands have called for a one-day strike on November 2, ahead of scheduled talks with the government on November 6.

Source : Balkaninsight