ATHENS – Private doctors in Greece who wouldn’t volunteer to help beat back the more than year-long COVID-19 pandemic will be forced to help, said Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias, but he didn’t say how.
Frustrated that only 61 of the country’s 3,000 doctors in private practice heard his call for them to join in the fight, he said the New Democracy government will draft them but didn’t say what the penalties would be if they still refused.
Greece has been dealing with a surging third wave of the Coronavirus that has seen cases and deaths spike and so many critically-ill patients on ventilators that public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are overwhelmed.
While a few private clinics also agreed to help, there were no reports how many of the country’s private hospitals would also agree to let their facilities, beds and ICU’s be used.
Kikilias a week earlier had given doctors 48 hours to respond and said they would be conscripted if they didn’t but when they still refused he did nothing about it until now.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who earlier said he would commandeer private hospitals if needed, was also reluctant to make private doctors help saying it would be a tender issue legally.
Kikilias said at least 200 private doctors are needed to help public hospital staff dealing with COVID-19 and other cases, with even some surgeries being postponed because hospitals had filled.
He said his decision – which involves the specialties of physicians, pulmonologists and general practitioners in the greater Athens region – was made “in light of emergency circumstances and the urgent need to provide healthcare assistance to our fellow citizens,” said Kathimerini.
It is not just the rising number of Covid-19 hospitalizations that need immediate attention. It is also other patients, often serious cases, whose needs are being neglected as absolute priority is given to the pandemic, the paper said.
“I cannot imagine any of my doctor colleagues, who have sworn the Oath of Hippocrates, not wanting to volunteer,” Kikilias, an orthopedic surgeon, said during a visit to Athens’ Genimatas Hospital.
Mitsotakis told the newspaper To Vima that, “We always have cooperation as a first step. Because, you understand, mobilization has a strong legal basis, but when we ask a doctor to volunteer his services, it is not enough to issue orders. We must also inspire (them) to do it. But, if I need to use this ultimate constitutional instrument at my disposal, that of requisitioning personal services, I will do it.”