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Crisis drives deprived Greeks to seek health services in charity organizations

10 October 2011 / 18:10:39  GRReporter
4268 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

The severe economic crisis, which has already been spreading in Greece for two years now, has inevitably deprived many Greeks of their jobs. The latest official figures show that unemployment in the country has reached 16 per cent. In terms of increasingly deepening recession in the country, estimates are that it will continue to increase. According to the institute of the union of employees in the private sector, which is currently the only sector that has seriously suffered from the crisis, real unemployment rate is always 5 per cent higher than the statistical calculations.

When a person remains unemployed, he or she does not just lose the wage upon which their existence depends, but also the social and health insurances, which enable them to take care of their health. GRReporter tried to understand how many Greeks have lost their access to the national health system and the consequences on their health.

Artemis Lianou, volunteer at the non-government organization Medecins du Monde said that the number of Greeks who call the organisation for medical assistance and medicines is growing every day.

"In our medical centre in Athens the increase is about 30 per cent, and the number of people is rising continuously. This change has occurred within one year."

The organization has a clinic in the Athens suburb of Perama. It was originally opened to serve immigrants and people who have no access to health services but in the last year, the patients are only Greeks.

"The clinic in Perama was opened to serve immigrants and people who have no access to health services. We did not expect that 80-90 per cent of our patients would be Greeks. The problem in this area is far more serious because the number of unemployed is higher. As a result, the living standards of people have dropped significantly. More people come every day and they need help. People lose their jobs and insurance and are unable to go into any of the hospitals because they have to pay an amount that they do not have. When a person registers as unemployed, the insurances cover a specific period after which, however, they remain without insurances, and in paritcular when they are following a certain course of treatment, they are unable to buy the necessary medications. Then, they come to us to obtain the medication and be examined by a doctor."

About 100 people go to the organization's clinics every day. Some time ago, its members urged people, who have the opportunity to do so, to donate drugs to the organization to help the needy. "We have doctors from all specialties, nurses and orderlies. We strive to meet the needs of most people. Everyone who comes to our clinics during the working day is attended to. In addition, we have doctors from different specialties every day, which allows us to divide the cases. Our doctors examine them and decide whether they need constant monitoring and mediate to find a solution to their problem. In such cases, our effortsare directed towards monitoring whether they accept the medicines they need and their health condition."

At the same time, the specialized medical journal Lancet published a study by Alexandros Kentikelenis, sociologist at the University of Cambridge, according to which the risk of AIDS infection in Greece has risen due to the economic crisis.

Greek non-government organizations involved in limiting the spread of the HIV virus have warned that last year, the cases of new infections rose very sharply and that they are expected to rise further within 52 per cent by the end of 2011. The Cambridge sociologist believes that it is a determining factor that many drug addicts are unemployed and are trying to earn money for their daily dose of drugs through prostitution.

The study also reports a sharp increase in suicides, which in 2010 were 25 per cent more than in 2009. The results for the first half of 2011 are even more tragic. 40 per cent more Greeks committed suicide than in the same period last year.

"Murders and thefts doubled in the period 2007-2009 and the cuts in part of government spending reduced the number of people receiving social assistance by about 40 per cent. All the problems described in the study are directly related to the crisis," states Alexandros Kentikelenis. 

Tags: societyCrisisUnemploymentHealth servicesMedecins du MondeMedications Drug addictsAIDSSuicide
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