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Greece’s Unvaccinated Health Workers Will be Replaced, Not Paid

September 1, 2021

ATHENS – Although some delays have already been given after the New Democracy government said they wouldn't, Sept. 1 is the last day for Greece's unvaccinated helth workers to get their first COVID-19 or be suspended without pay.

The government said it's ready to fill the ranks including in hospitals have refused to be inoculated – with recruits given three and six-month contracts but it wasn't said if they would be extended if needed.

Secretary General of Health Services Yiannis Kotsiopoulos told radio 98.4 that some 10,000 health workers will not continue working in the National Health System and be temporarily replaced.

According to the most recent data, more than 90 percent of the doctors and 80 percent of the nurses had been vaccinated but percentages are lower for other staff in the sector.

The refuseniks will also lose Social Security contributions toward their retirement, won't be allowed to return until they are vaccinated or the pandemic ends, and have no guarantee the same position will be available to them.

The Health Ministry, said Kathimerini, is ready to implement a plan for the expected exodus that will leave the system understaffed as the number of cases, hospitalizations, people in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and dying is growing.

That's largely because of the unvaccinated as well people defying what's left to health measures, not wearing masks or staying safe distances from each other, partying and going to public gatherings where the virus can spread.

With the especially contagious Delta Variant from India overtaking the country and becoming the dominant strain, with nearly 90 percent of the cases, Greece is at a dangerous crossroads.

But Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who for months said he couldn't force health care workers to be vaccinated but then ordered it, still hasn't made shots mandatory for others with far lower rates of taking shots, such as the police.

Little more than half the police force is vaccinated although officers come into daily contact with people and can spread the virus, and nor have tourism workers been required to be vaccinated, including on islands where COVID-19 has spread although tourists and others going there have to be vaccinated or virus-free.

To insure hospitals and health care centers continue to operate without a break, the plan, the paper said, also includes a reshuffle of hospital workers, mergers of clinics and departments, replacement staff and working with the private sector for support services such as catering.

The only exemptions for the mandatory shots for the sector are those with proof they have recovered from the virus or can demonstrate a medical reason that must be approved by committees being set up around the country.

The former Deputy Minister of Health, Vassilis Kontozamanis, also said that the suspended workers will have to return their previous pay check but it wasn't said how that would be enforced if they don't.

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