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"Message of Life" rescues needy pensioners

21 September 2012 / 15:09:27  GRReporter
2357 reads

Victoria Mindova

The economic crisis and the change in the status of the Greeks that it brought have driven the organization Medecins du Monde in Athens to develop a new programme to support elderly people. It is called "Message of Life" and is aimed at pensioners over the age of 65 who have no health insurance or enough money to buy essential medicines.

"We help adults with serious social difficulties. A physician makes home visits and provides basic health services. We carry food essentials to these people and provide consultations with a social worker and a psychiatrist," Christina Samartsi, a member of the organization’s team, told GRReporter. "Message for life" is serving about 70 pensioners, who have fallen into disgrace.

Christina says that in the last two years, the profile of the people seeking help from the charitable health organization has radically changed. The Greek branch of Medecins du Monde was founded 23 years ago. At first, it was engaged mainly with immigrants who did not have access to the public health care system. Recently, the numbers of elderly Greeks with low incomes who need help have dramatically increased.

"These are mainly people who do not receive a pension or receive a low pension and cannot afford to buy the medicines they need. Because of the reforms, health and social funds do not cover a large part of the medicines or cover others only partially. So, the patients have to pay additionally to obtain them. People who come to us are at an impasse," the young specialist said.

She said the demand would increase due to the change in the health insurance services financed from the state budget. Public funds do not have the previous capacity to cover 100% of the cost of medicines and treatment of citizens, and the assistance to the poor has been drastically reduced.

"The pharmacy in the neighbourhood stated that it could not give me the medicines for free any longer, and I receive the minimal pension. I cannot afford them. That is why I came here," an elderly woman from Athens told GRReporter while waiting in line to receive free medicines. She suffers from diabetes and due to the change in the lists of medicines funded by the health insurance fund she has to pay now a percentage of her treatment. She has no family to help her financially and her only hope is the charitable initiative of the non-governmental organization.
About 100 people a day - Greeks and foreigners, go to the polyclinic of Medecins du Monde on 14, Sapfo Street in Athens. Large families, the elderly, homeless or unemployed are lining up to be entered in the records of the organization and get a free consultation or medicines. The organization has functioning polyclinics in Athens, Perama, Thessaloniki and Chania. "Less than a month ago, we opened another polyclinic in Patras, where there is a serious problem with illegal immigrants who have no access to public health services."

In addition to health services, the organization provides shelter for foreigners awaiting legalization. It provides accommodation, food and lessons in Greek and English. The sharp increase in the number of homeless people in Greece has been the reason for the operation of the mobile medical centre of volunteers in the last year. It moves around the capital and Piraeus to give first aid to the needy. "We have noticed that with the worsening of the financial situation of the country the number of volunteers has increased. People are willing to devote their spare time and knowledge to help the needy."

The "Message of Life" programme is financed by Tinos Foundation and the budget available at present will be sufficient to cover its needs by the end of the year. The funding covers the cost of food products, medical services and social workers. "We hope that the programme will continue in 2013 with the support of the same foundation or of some other source, because there are many elderly people who need us." Five specialists are currently employed in the specific programme "Message for Life" but Christina said that the team tends to increase in number. In total, more than 100 active volunteers from the medical profession and social workers are operating within the organization.

Tags: SocietySocial policyNon-governmental organizationsMedecins du MondeAthens
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