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.