ATHENS – Ignoring repeated urging and warnings to jump into the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, private doctors in Greece will be forced to take part if they don’t volunteer to help private hospitals struggling to deal with rising cases.
That came from the New Democracy government which has been reluctant to make private doctors aid the public health system despite record numbers of cases, hospitalizations, deaths and people on ventilators in public hospitals.
There were more than 47,000 active cases and 3,663 people in hospitals as of Nov. 11, leading Deputy Health Minister Dr. Mina Gaga again to tell private doctors to do their part or be conscripted.
“We have a lot of cases, and ESY (Public Health System) is under a lot of pressure at the moment,” she stressed, noting that there is three to four times more work for doctors in hospitals’ COVID departments, said Kathimerini.
Government spokesman Yiannis Economou said that doctors in private practice have until Nov. 15 to offer their services to ESY or face being drafted to assist at public hospitals struggling to cope with patient numbers.
“We will do whatever is necessary to bolster ESY, at any level, regardless of the cost,” he said in an interview with Alpha TV but the government has kept pushing back the date when the private doctors would be forced to aid.
She said that hospitals are using the same amount of oxygen each day they would normally in a week, adding to the burden although private clinics said they are willing to cooperate.
With the government not going to lockdowns or tougher measures, except for the unvaccinated, she said the public has to do its part to slow the pandemic as a vaccination program has stalled.
She urged members of the public to step up their efforts to “stop the pandemic” by “wearing a mask, taking care of our contacts and of course getting vaccinated. We are not relaxing. We currently have the most cases of Coronavirus we have ever had,” she said.
“We have symptoms, we take a test. We generally should take tests often,” she said, continuing a persuasion campaign that largely failed until the soaring cases sent the skeptical scurrying to get their shots.
Asked about the condition in hospitals and the situation with non-COVID patients, she reassured that “all patients will be treated safely in any case,” the paper added.
Vana Papaevangelou, a Professor of pediatric infectious diseases and member of the government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists said there has been a 50 percent increase in cases in a week.
“The pressure on ESY is significant,” she said, noting that it will continue for at least two to three weeks, along with an increase in intubations and deaths.
The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy rate in Thessaloniki reached 97 percent, she said, and hit 88 percent across the country but the government still hasn’t moved to use private clinic ICU beds.
She also appealed to people to be vaccinated but while the numbers are going up there is still a significant hard-core group of anti-vaxxers who refuse, believing the shots aren’t safe or effective or are part of an international conspiracy to alter their DNA or control their minds.