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COVID-19 Pushes Greek Public Hospitals, ICU’s Toward the Brink

ATHENS – With all 360 Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) at Greek public hospitals full with COVID-19 patients on ventilators, Greece’s New Democracy is moving toward using more private hospitals, more than a year after the pandemic began.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had said private facilities would be commandeered if needed but didn’t do it until the ICU’s were almost overflowing with critical care patients as cases soared during a third quasi-lockdown, now dropping except for those needing ventilators.

The National Health System (ESY) said the situation has become almost desperate as 100 percent capacity was hit, leading the government to say there would be further cooperation with private hospitals, said Kathimerini.

But there were few details and no word whether they would again be asked or compelled to help in the fight against the Coronavirus to keep the public hospitals from being unable to take more patients.

Another private hospital, not named, is going to be used to treat COVID-19 patients and another 100 ICU beds will be added to the health system, the report also added, with worry rising.

Representatives of hospital doctors (EINAP, OENGE) protested vehemently  against a decision by the Health Ministry to transfer specialized doctors from the Laiko, Ippokrateio and Spiliopouleio hospitals to the private Leto so they can offer treatment to COVID-19 patients taken there from public hospitals.

There was no report whether that was being done because the doctors in the private hospital wouldn’t cooperate and the unions want the decision reversed to keep doctors in the public hospitals and demanded the “proper requisition of private clinics” reserved for the rich and those with private insurance.

Another 1,134 cases were announced on March 15 with 46 more deaths, while 4,000 people in hospitals were being treated for the Coronavirus as the government is struggling to beat back the pandemic.

Greece is now more than four months into a third lockdown whose measures keep being eased and tightened, Mitsotakis going back and forth as he’s trying to save the economy and lives too, businesses frantic to reopen.

His advisory panel of doctors and scientists is said to be unsure what to do as well, said Kathimerini, hesitant to estimate when a third wave of COVID-19 will back off and when the pressure will ease on public hospitals.

Schools that had been opened and closed and opened and closed are still shut until at least March 29, with the school year running out as Greece also heads into the religious period leading up to Easter on May 2.

Deputy Minister of Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias said the health protocols would be changed as needed to deal with the spread of the virus, variant strains and based on changing epidemiological data.

“The reduction in ICUs will be gradual… probably at least 10 days away,” Matina Pagoni, the head of the union representing hospital doctors, told SKAI TV, expecting hospital admissions to keep rising until least March 25, Greek Independence Day. 

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