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Greece Adding More ICU Beds, Boosting Health Care During COVID-19

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(EUROKINISSI/TATIANA BOLLARI)

ATHENS – With the help of benefactors and the Diaspora, Greece will more than double the number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds it had before the COVID-19 Coronaviris pandemic hit and will bolster public hospitals and health care.

The sector was hard hit with austerity measures and budget cuts during a near decade-long crisis and was left with only 592 ICU beds in a country of 11 million people but a fast lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the virus held down cases and deaths.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said the New Democracy government plans to raise that 1,200 as it is recruiting more doctors after thousands left during the austerity years and will add more health care support staff too to the public health system ESY.

In an interview published in Kathimerini’s Sunday edition a day before the May 4 gradual easing of the lockdown was set to begin he said the new ICU goal will bring the country in line with the European average of about 12 beds per 100,000 people.

Kikilias said Greece currently has 1,017 ICU beds, of which 840 are in state hospitals, 145 in private clinics and 32 in military hospitals. A total 352 ICUs have been adapted to treat COVID-19 cases, he said.

The government had a contingency plan in place before any deaths were recorded, including commandeering private clinics and hospitals if needed, winning international acclaim, apart from the major opposition Radical Left SYRIZA.

He said the government is preparing for any resurgence of the virus or if it reappears in the autumn and will use the time to add to the health care sector after already hiring 4,000 doctors, nurses and paramedics and said 2,000 contract workers at ESY will be added to the permanent staff.

He said the government will reward ESY staff for their contribution during the pandemic, describing medics as “next-door saints,” but didn't say what form that would take in compensation or other means.

The government will set up an observatory to monitor progress internationally in developing vaccines and therapies to fight COVID-19 and secure a local supply chain for personal protective equipment.