Photo: To Vima
Hundreds of thousands of Greeks have been unemployed since the outbreak of the crisis until today. But the data on the unemployment rate hides a large number of Greeks who lose their health insurance along with losing their jobs.
A visit to a private doctor's office is far beyond their means and these people are unable to pay even for their medicines in many cases.
In order to help people who put at risk their health as well as that of the society, the Medical Association of Athens and the charity organization "Apostles" ("Mission") to the Archbishopric of the Greek Orthodox Church established a social doctor's office in early February.
The president of the Medical Association George Patoulis told GRReporter that over four thousand uninsured citizens unemployed for a long time had been examined there in the last six months. In practice, the doctors examine and diagnose them, provide them with medicines from the social pharmacy operating within the project.
"There were a considerable number of cases among them, when the people needed to be treated in a hospital. However, this was impossible because they had to pay for the treatment, but did not have the means. We sent a letter to the Minister of Health, at that time Andreas Loverdos, and received the reply that uninsured persons cannot be accepted for treatment in hospitals if they are unable to pay for it."
George Patoulis described the situation as a humanitarian crisis and explained that the Medical Association has undertaken to help people with serious health problems. "Through personal contacts and acquaintances in hospitals, we were able to ensure the hospitalization of cancer patients and people who needed surgery. This cannot continue in that way, on a voluntary basis."
The Medical Association indicated among the most notable cases that of a high risk pregnancy of a woman with twins, one of whom had a disability. All hospitals to which the woman had turned sent her away because she was not insured and had no money to pay for the treatment. Doctors from the Association claim that the danger to the lives of the twins is 70 per cent and 15 per cent for the life of the mother.
Another example is a 38-year-old man suffering from tuberculosis, who was admitted to a hospital as an emergency case. Immediately after the treatment, the hospital required the social doctor's office to cover the costs of his treatment, because the patient was unable to pay.
In addition to the call to the government to take measures for the uninsured citizens, whose number is steadily increasing, doctors from Athens have taken an initiative at European level too. "We are discussing with doctors' unions in the capitals of European Union member states the creation of a health charter for European citizens. It will have to ensure minimum health services regardless of the economic situation in European countries."
The number of unvaccinated children is growing too. George Patoulis said the problem is particularly serious, since 80 per cent of the total 1,100 children examined in the social doctor’s office have not been vaccinated at all and the cycle in others was not completed. "We initiated a campaign to vaccinate children in order to help in this direction as well. It takes place in two parts. First, we register the children who need vaccination. The main part will take place in October when specialized paediatric volunteers will vaccinate them."
According to the chairman, this is one of the reasons for the establishment of five branches of the social doctor's office in various Athenian suburbs. "Vaccinations are important to prevent the return of long forgotten diseases to Greece."
The Medical Association provides free drugs collected within the campaign "Together we can." "People were bringing medicines they did not need. So, we managed to collect a large amount of drugs, which we give to the needy through the social pharmacy. Furthermore, we visited doctors' offices on remote islands and provided medicines for the needs of the people there."
President of the Medical Association of Athens George Patoulis is granting medicines for the needs of the residents on the island of Simi.
Finally, George Patoulis said that the activities of the social doctor's office would spread given that the number of people willing to contribute is growing. "For this purpose, together with the Archbishopric of Athens we have contacted the US Archbishopric. It will send medical supplies that we will give to hospitals in case of need. I mean by this that we all will be alert to help together when the state is unable to do it."