ATHENS – While still not moving to recruit private clinics as public hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 patients, Greece’s New Democracy government ordered that non-emergency operations will be stopped for now.
The declaration led Health Minister Thanos Plevris, who has been giving sometimes contradictory messages about the fight against the pandemic, to reassure that life-saving surgeries will still go on but the priority is in dealing with COVID cases.
“No human life will be put at risk and no emergency surgery will be postponed,” said Plevris, adding that, if necessary, the government would turn to private clinics to help without explaining why that hasn’t already been done with public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) at 90 percent capacity and rising.
Government spokesman Yiannis Oikonomou described the decision to reduce regular surgeries by 80% as a “significant blow to public health,” but said that it was a “necessary decision due to the pressure that the National Health System has come under due to the unvaccinated.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has moved away from a pledge to consider mandatory shots for all if the pandemic worsened, even as it did, with only health care workers required so far to be inoculated.
Deputy Health Minister Dr. Mina Gaga – Plevris is not a physician – said that hospitals are not being told to stop non-essentially surgeries but being given permission to do so if they wanted, apparently trying to deflect potential criticism of the government.
She stressed that no serious medical case or chemotherapy session “will be left behind,” said Kathimerini. She added: “We will not stop an operation for a tumor or for a car accident,” but that those deemed non-critical won’t be performed for now although there was no listing of what those would be.
The paper said she sent a memo to the directors of the country’s health regions, that only patients who require emergency surgical intervention will be exempt from the measure, a decision denounced by the Athens-Piraeus Hospital Doctors Association.
The number of COVID cases hit 8,100 on Nov. 23 as rabid anti-vaxxers continued to spread the Coronavirus, even infecting the fully vaccinated, who make up almost 40 percent of cases as the effectiveness of their shots begins wearing off.
A scrambling campaign for booster shots has come at the same time that the resurgence of the pandemic has convinced many vaccine skeptics to get their first shots of two from available versions, apart from the single-shot Johnson & Johnson..
The death toll also hit 17,517, including a record 105 on Nov. 22 as the government is still relying mostly on a largely failed persuasion campaign and turned to limiting where the unvaccinated can go.