On Hospitals and Health Care in Greece

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

I am reaching out the Community regarding an article that I read in the September 5th issue of The National Herald about a Greek-American gentleman who was visiting Chios and died because of lack of oxygen in the health clinic that he was directed to go to. A few weeks ago, I had the unfortunate luck of visiting a hospital in Ioannina. My father contracted the West Nile Virus and was in ICU because he fell into a coma. My siblings and I left New York expecting the worst but thank God my dad survived and is slowly recovering. The reason I am sharing this story is because I was shocked at the hospital system in Greece.

When my father came out of ICU he was placed in a room with no heart monitor, no blood pressure monitor, and no oxygen monitor. The conditions reminded me of a third world country. What was worst of all was the attitude of the staff. My father came out of a coma and was in a diaper unable to feed himself, talk clearly, or even sit up. Being used to the medical system in New York, we had no idea that the nurses there do not change or clean the patient. We quickly found out after my mom, a 77-year old cancer survivor, asked one of the nurses to clean my dad, only to hear, “aren’t you his spouse? You should clean him!”

It took us a few hours to find out that we had to hire a private nurse to take care of my dad at the cost of 60 euros for an eight-hour shift. The hospital nurses were rude – one nurse was yelling at my dad who was bedridden two days after coming out of the ICU. Luckily, my sister was there and asked her to lower her voice because my dad was bedridden but not hard of hearing. As we worked around the clock to help my dad regain his strength we questioned how an elderly individual with no money and no help can survive in this type of a situation? Greece is not a third world country. It is a country that is part of the EU. It is a country full of culture and centuries old civilization. How can they allow these conditions to exist? No toilet paper in the bathroom, no hand soap, and no hand towels.

In speaking with some of the people there I found out that this hospital was actually one of the better hospitals in Greece. I was told the ones in Athens are 100 times worse. I couldn’t believe that this situation actually exists in our day and age.

Mr. George Lios, the gentleman in the article, God rest his soul, was a victim of the failing medical system in Greece. A system that is being burdened by more refugees, no money, skilled doctors leaving the country, cuts in nursing staff, and no plans for improvement. How can we bring awareness to this situation? Who can we reach out to? How do we educate other Greek-Americans or foreign visitors about what their options are and what to expect if they have a medical emergency? Which are the best hospitals to go to? When you find yourself in a medical emergency it is hard to navigate through a failing system quickly. In addition, private hospitals require a 5,000 euro deposit in order to admit you. So what are your options?

It would be extremely beneficial for The National Herald to cover this situation in one of your articles and to bring awareness to the many readers about what to expect. In addition, I’d be curious to know what the politicians of Greece have to say about this. And what are they doing to change it?


Dafne Panayiotou was born in Greece and immigrated to New York with her family when she was eight. She resides in Astoria and works at Pistilli Realty Group (a real estate property management company) as the chief operations officer.


  1. Having worked in the healthcare system in Greece for many years and being familiar with both the US and Greek healthcare systems, I would like to address some of the issues presented. First and foremost, refugees are not the problem or the reason for the dire state of the healthcare system in Greece. As for doctors, Greece had the highest percentage of doctors perpopulation in Europe. There were too many doctors for the system to absorb and it was only natural that they would have to leave to find work. However, I do not think that most of them found work as physicians because of the language barriers. Also, many physicians wanted to stay in major cities, especially Athens, resulting in these doctors working as taxi drivers. I could never understand why a doctor would rather work as a taxi driver, rather than go to work as a physician in an area where he is needed!
    Yes, the attitudes of nurses and doctors in Greece are unbelievably of low standards. But, that has do mostly with their education and paideia. Doctors have a “holier than thou ” attitude and nurses, well, their education never developed their “caring” side. This is deeply rooted in views by society in Greece.
    The major problem is that there is no management and/or administration. When an administrator of a hospital is not educated/trained on the complexities, then you have these results. When the hospital is seen as the playground of the doctors and that everyone is there for the doctor, then these…

  2. So why do you insist that Greece is not a Third World Country. If it walks like duck, looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck… it just might be a duck

  3. This has been around forever in Greece, the Crisis, Refugees, Bailout Repayments, are not the cause, system, or result of this national mess, The administration of the Healthcare system and every hospital are under trained in how to run a true care giving institution, they might have medical degrees etc but how to run even a clinic is beyond them. Dr’s smoke inside hospitals as due the entire staff nurses etc, patients linger in the halls on beds or stretchers, and yes No Hygiene at all for patients or the hospital itself, too many excuses, of course now the Healthcare budget is so low basic items are not available. But wholesale changes must be made. Mass firings of entire staffs, Dr’s, Nurses, Staff, Administrators, etc. New laws regulations and a more professional and caring atmosphere in every hospital, the Greek people are paying for this B.S. with their taxes yet they keep taking it, Enough already, we know the problems and we know the solutions, yes it will take awhile to train brand new staff, new nurses, Dr’s not meeting the new regs no smoking, better manners, not doing unnecessary surgeries, etc will be terminated, all med schools will have to teach and mandate all new Dr’s to pass the professionalism and compassion curriculum, or they don’t graduate. For the immediate future til these major reforms are set in stone Medical professionals can be in charge of the medical staff, but ex military officers should be put in charge of staff, maintenance, cleaning,…

  4. I’m reading this in a hospital bed in Chios, where I was admitted with a fractured spine last night. The staff in the emergency section were so helpful but now I am in a ward and I cannot believe the lack of care. I’ve been in tears tonight because I’m in so much pain and cannot get anyone to even come and see me. Part of the problem is lack of money but there is no excusing the attitude of the staff, which is appalling.

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