COVID-19 Overwhelms Greek Public Hospitals: Struggle to Cope, Hope


The Evangelismos Athens General Hospital. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Vasilis Rempanis)

ATHENS – Despite doubling the number of Intensive Care Units (ICU's) and increasing ventilators during the eight-month COVID-19 pandemic, public hospitals can't handle the wave of critical cases coming in as a second lockdown wasn't working so far.

The problem is most acute in northern Greece, especially the country's second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki where hospitals were at almost 100 percent capacity in ICU's, beds filling as fast as they were emptying. 

To deal with it, Health Ministry finally moved, as the government said it would earlier, to commandeer private clinics otherwise available to only the rich who can afford the cost of going there, facilities superior to those in public hospitals.

The private clinics had been forced to take non-critical patients without COVID-19 but now their ICU's will be used as well, the government saying either 200 beds would be made available or they would be taken over by the state.

The number of people in ICU's as of Nov. 19 hit 499, and another 59 deaths raised that grim toll to 1,347, with 3,227 cases record, records being set almost every consecutive day as health protocols to slow the spread weren't working.

Signs showed in Athens that people may be flouting the restrictions as traffic was near normal in some places although cafes, bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses will be closed until at least Dec. 1, likely longer.

Nurses and other hospital staff in facilities and areas that aren't being overwhelmed were responding to the call to go to Thessaloniki to help, said Kathimerini.