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Hospitals will send the bills for the treatment of illegal immigrants in state hospitals to the embassies of foreign countries

04 April 2012 / 19:04:21  GRReporter
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The treatment of undocumented immigrants in the Athens polyclinic, several hundred metres away from Omonia Square, cost 41,495 euro in 2011. Its director claims that 30% of the patients who were examined there were foreigners, illegal and legal immigrants.

According to estimates, the cost of treatment of illegal immigrants in all Greek hospitals has reached 150 million euro annually. The management of major hospitals, claiming that two out of every ten patients are foreigners, mostly illegal immigrants, confirms the fact. Often, they sign declarations that they will pay for the cost of treatment. The majority of them, however, disappear when their health improves. Others pay the bill gradually in monthly instalments.

The Ministry of Health sent strict orders to the regional health authorities across the country to send information to foreign embassies for all illegal immigrants treated in public hospitals. "We will require the cost of their treatment to be paid in a more organized manner," said the general secretary of the department Nikos Polizos. He admitted that applications to diplomatic missions have been rarely made so far, although this is the intended way of operation.

The Ministry considers that it is unlikely to cover the unpaid treatment bills, but notices to embassies and making an archive would help Greece in the negotiations. To date, the cooperation between hospitals and embassies is very far from being defined as productive even on secondary issues.

In the first quarter of 2011,  the Athens polyclinic spent 31,632 euro for the treatment of immigrants, owning "pink" cards given to them after they had applied for refugee status. The amount is large, because a Pakistani, suffering from tuberculosis was treated at that time. The social worker at the polyclinic contacted the Embassy of Pakistan, but it refused to cooperate and did not even send an interpreter. Finally, the man applied for political asylum with an immigration organization, secured a free treatment and was saved. "We took him half-dead and he left walking," said members of the polyclinic staff.

Following the statements made by Minister of Health Andreas Loverdos about a "health bomb ready to explode" in the centre of Athens, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the district health services are looking again at the action plan, drawn up on the occasion of the Olympic Games in 2004. It stipulates that the major hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as university hospitals must have specially adapted rooms for the treatment of immigrants suffering from infectious diseases. The polyclinic in Omonia already has a special room for infectious diseases. The fifteen tuberculosis patients in the last eight years were treated in separate rooms near the surgical ward. After a 2-3-month treatment, the immigrants could receive free antibiotics from the specialized hospital for lung diseases, Sotiria.

One of the things not specified by the Ministry is to which embassies the requests for payment of the bills for treatment will be sent since most of the immigrants have no papers to prove which country they come from.

Meanwhile, Minister of Citizens' Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis withdrew the amendment for the establishment of detention centres for illegal immigrants. According to Deputy Minister Manolis Othonas, it was not submitted on time and will be submitted again. The withdrawal was the result from the reactions of the left coalition SYRIZA and the Communist Party, which protested against its filing not within the statutory period.

Earlier, Michalis Chrisochodis announced that the first detention centre for illegal immigrants will be operational in the Attica area after Easter. He did not announce a specific place, but according to sources, the centre will be located near Amigdaleza. The school for police officers, the national security school, the retraining centre and a few small detention centres for minors are located there.

Local people are protesting against the establishment of a detention centre for illegal immigrants and say they will not allow the centre to be located "a few metres away" from their homes.

Tags: SocietyHopsitalsTreatment of immigrantsCostsEmbassiesInfectious diseases
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