ATHENS – More than a year after COVID-19 struck and is rising again, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government, as long promised, is looking at using private hospitals to take in patients needing critical care.
Private doctors who had been asked to help earlier had almost universally refused and the government, with few exceptions, didn’t commandeer the Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) of private hospitals reserved for the rich.
Now, with public hospital ICU’s nearing 100 percent capacity in an extended third lockdown, the Health Ministry is inventorying beds in the private sector that could be taken over if needed, said Kathimerini.
“Depending on how the epidemic develops, we are examining all scenarios,” said Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis with the government waiting until it’s serious enough to use the private facilities but not yet.
Secretary-General for Health Services Ioannis Kotsiopoulos sent a note to the Panhellenic Association of Private Clinics and the Association of Greek Clinics, asking private clinics to report how many beds – both simple hospitalization and intensive care beds – they have and how many are empty.
The document said that the request is being made “due to the emergencies created by the spread of COVID-19 and in order to properly prepare the country for the protection of public health.”
Vana Papaevangelou, a Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Athens University, said more than 3,200 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals, the occupancy rate nationally at 63 percent but 87 percent in Attica, which includes the capital.
She said the situation has worsened in Greece not just because of a lenient lockdown infrequently enforced but because of a variant from the United Kingdom which was lax and hard hit by the pandemic, letting it spread.
The UK variant now is being seen in up to 70 percent of the cases in Greece and 90 percent in Attica and on Crete with winter weather making it easier to spread to the general populace, especially in public gatherings going on.