Doctor Exodus Leaving Some Greek Hospitals Understaffed



ATHENS – Nearly eight years of doctors leaving Greece in search of better pay and conditions in other countries has led to shortages in hospitals, especially in key departments where specialists are needed.

“We have warned that the problem of understaffing at hospitals will explode and hospitals will collapse,” Panos Papanikolaou of the Federation of Greek Hospital Doctors’ Unions told Kathimerini. But officials said they have no plan to deal with the problem as more and more doctors keep leaving Greece where they are dealing with constantly cut health budgets and lack of support, including from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who vowed to help them but piled on more austerity measures on orders of international lenders.

Papanikolaou, who said 35-40 percent of specialist posts are vacant at a number of hospitals with those in Agrinio and Tripoli and the Thrasio in western Athens are among those worse affected.

But in September, 2017, a report said Greece has a surplus of at least 20,000 specialized doctors and the number is growing by the year and had produced a number of doctors disproportionate to its population of about 10.7 million – a trend that intensified in the past two decades.

A substantial percentage of these professionals are either unemployed or underemployed. The rate stood at 28 percent among Athens doctors.

Some 17,500 Greek doctors work outside the country and yet the National Health System (ESY) has shortages of doctors and health professionals with some 6,000 vacant posts at that time.

The oversupply of specialized doctors and the shortage of general practitioners is confirmed by a study conducted by the Greek Health Ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) which showed there were only 3,800 general practitioners when, according to the European Union average, there should be around 8,140. Yet the number of specialized doctors was far above the EU average. In 2014, there were 42,647 specialized doctors in Greece when, according to the EU average, their number should have been around 20,283.