ATHENS – Warned for weeks they would be suspended without pay if they didn't get the first shot of two required of most COVID-19 vaccination versions, some 5,895 Greek health workers were put on leave without pay for still refusing.
The suspensions began Sept. 1 or were in the process of being issued, said a report by SKAI TV as the New Democracy government delivered on its vow to move against those refusing to be inoculated in a bid to slow the surging pandemic.
That came after the Suspension Commission of the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court, rejected applications submitted by medical, nursing and other hospital staff asking for the mandatory shots to be barred.
A separate appeal to annul and suspend the law submitted by the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDIN) will be discussed by the court’s plenary on Oct. 8, said Kathimerini.
Vacations were canceled to fill shortages over the suspensions and the government said the suspended workers would be replaced with recruits and not be allowed to return without either being vaccinated or until the pandemic ends.
They also will lose their Social Security contributions toward their retirement for as long as they are out and there is no guarantee they can return to the same position which will be filled, leaving them facing the prospect of being transferred elsewhere.
About 18 percent of workers in health care have so far refused to be vaccinated, some doubting the safety or efficacy of the shots and others believing it's part of an international conspiracy to alter their DNA and control their minds.
The numbers have dropped since the government set the deadline but a hard-core resistance remains and some took to the streets in protest, a tactic which has almost never worked in Greece.
There are expectations, said Kathimerini, that public hospitals will start being overwhelmed with rising cases of the Coronavirus that spiked over the unvaccinated and people defying health care measures.
Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are also at 67 percent capacity and rising as the surging Delta Variant from India that makes up almost 90 percent of the cases has overtaken the country, targeting the unvaccinated mostly.
The mandatory inoculation concerns medical, paramedical, nursing, administrative and support staff in hospitals, as well as private, public and municipal care facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities as well
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who said for months he couldn't force health workers to be vaccinated said he may make shots mandatory for all residents if the pandemic doesn't slow in the autumn.