ATHENS – Greece’s National Health System (ESY) – seeing a decade of budget cuts under austerity and an economic crisis – can’t offer good quality and accessible care, according to a study commissioned by the Dianeosis think tank.
Public hospitals often don’t even have toilet paper, toilet seats, paper towels or basic equipment and patients wanting quality care have to hire private nurses, the effect of repeated cuts in budgets financing the system.
Titled A New National Health System, the study by seven respected and specialized academics puts forward a series of proposals for overhauling what they describe as a failing system, said Kathimerini in a report.
According to data cited in the study from various reputable sources, one in five citizens can’t pay for health care, one in three cancer patients cannot see their doctor regularly and one in four have trouble getting the drugs they need, while six in 10 diabetics struggle to pay as well.
“The difficulties of accessing and using health services have grown particularly for those who need them most, thus jeopardizing the element of equality and social justice,” said the report in an ominous finding, as the New Democracy government hasn’t moved to make corrections.
The report noted underfunding, understaffing and mismanagement as the biggest problems, along with a chaotic system of distributing material and human resources, which it said has created an unfair and inadequate system.
Greece, spends 5 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on public healthcare against a European Union average of 7 percent, while more than 35 percent of citizens’ healthcare spending goes to the private sector.
Some 9.7 percent of household health spending is considered “catastrophic” in that it exceeds a certain proportion of household income. The study showed the number of patients who stayed at public hospitals rose 30 percent between 2009 and 2018 and with emergency rooms scenes looking like Third World facilities with patients on gurneys in hallways and even those critically ill unable to find beds.
The advise was for a three-year overhaul plan focusing on improving the administration and reorganizing of ESY, letting the social security provider EOPYY manage healthcare spending, merging hospitals and redefining their roles, boosting primary healthcare and introducing more flexible forms of labor in ESY.
Greek hospitals are not open 24 hours a day for emergency patients as they have rotating availabilities that require people in need to often go great distances to find an on-duty facility in other neighborhoods, the same way pharmacies operating hours work.